Officials say a 4-year-old girl, a 9-year-old boy, and two adults survived after their car plunged off a cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California near an area known for fatal accidents known as Devil’s Slide.
The Tesla sedan crashed into a rocky outcropping after plummeting over 250 feet from the highway. According to Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire battalion chief Brian Pottenger, the vehicle appears to have flipped several times before landing on its wheels, wedged against a cliff just feet from the ocean.
Devil’s Slide is a steep, rocky, and winding stretch of coastline about 15 miles south of San Francisco, between Pacifica and Montara. Very few people survive crashes in this area. On Monday, the victims were initially listed as being in critical condition, but when rescuers arrived, they were all conscious and alert.
“We frequently go there to throw cars off the cliff, but they never survive. This was a miraculous occurrence “Pottenger said.
Officer Mark Andrews stated that the California Highway Patrol does not believe that the Tesla was in Autopilot or Full Self-Driving mode at the time of the collision.
The condition of the road was also not believed to have contributed to the accident. At the location where the sedan fell off the cliff, there was no guardrail present.
“The vehicle left the main portion of the road. We do not know the reason why “Andrews said.
Witnesses dialed 911 at 10:15 a.m., and crews installed a rope system from the highway to lower firefighters down the cliff, according to the battalion chief. Simultaneously, other firefighters observing the sedan with binoculars observed movement, indicating that at least one person was still alive.
“Every one of us was shocked when we saw movement out of the front windshield,” Pottenger stated.
The incident, which had been expected to involve the recovery of bodies, morphed into a rescue operation that lasted several hours despite the constant rain, strong winds, slick roads, and crashing waves. The doors were smashed against the cliff and jammed shut, so firefighters were forced to use the so-called “jaws of life” to free the victims.
Crews extracted the children from the rear window and used the rope system to haul them up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket. They were rushed by ambulance to the hospital with musculoskeletal injuries.
“They were more scared than they were hurt,” Pottenger stated.
The adults, however, sustained severe injuries and had to be airlifted up the cliff by helicopter. According to the battalion chief, both were then transported by helicopter to a hospital. It was not immediately apparent whether the four occupants were family members.
Officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding the Tesla’s off-road excursion.
“I don’t even like driving it,” Pottenger said. It is without a doubt a dangerous stretch of California.
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