Pinellas man who crashed Tesla into home at 116 mph, killing 2, pleads guilty

A man who crashed a Tesla into a Palm Harbor home as he was driving at more than 100 mph, resulting in the deaths of two people, has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.

Vaughn W. Mongan, 44, pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and three counts of reckless driving with serious bodily injury this week. He is scheduled for sentencing on April 21 before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Chris Helinger and faces up to 40 years in prison. Mongan is currently being held in the Pinellas County Jail.

Mongan was arrested on Oct. 8, 2021 — a little over a month after he crashed a Tesla into a Palm Harbor home while going at least 116 mph. Mongan was driving a friend’s Tesla with four passengers inside at about 10:15 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2021, when he accelerated on Manning Road, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said. The road has a speed limit of 30 mph.

Mongan ran past a stop sign at a T intersection with Hermosa Drive and launched off a grassy embankment, crashing through a vinyl fence and into a home at 1498 Caird Way.

One of the passengers, Travis Meisman of Odessa, was killed. Meisman owned the Tesla that Mongan was driving. The three other passengers were seriously injured. Court records show that the surviving passengers sued Mongan and Meisman’s estate, but voluntarily dismissed the lawsuits last summer.

The crash also killed a 69-year-old woman inside the home, Donna Rein, and her dog, Lily. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times around the time of the crash, Rein’s family remembered her as a caretaker who loved to paint and crochet.

Mongan’s criminal defense attorney, Barry Taracks, did not return phone messages seeking comment.

Mongan had not been drinking or doing drugs prior to the crash and was not intoxicated at the time, according to Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bruce Bartlett.

“I can’t say I’ve ever encountered this type of situation,” said Bartlett, who has been a prosecutor for more than 40 years.

“Usually, on the part of the defendant, he’s intoxicated, on drugs or something ... and they then drive drunk and hit and kill somebody,” Bartlett said. “It’s kind of like you assume the risk.”

Bartlett said when Mongan pleaded guilty this week, Judge Helinger agreed that his sentence would not exceed 40 years in prison. Based on sentencing guidelines, Mongan will likely face at least 20 years in prison, Bartlett said.

The state attorney said Mongan was not acting out of maliciousness, but still carries criminal responsibility for the crash.

“The guy is very remorseful. It’s a tough situation,” Bartlett said. “It really, really is. So, my hat goes off to the judge, who’s got a difficult decision to make.”