PACIFICA, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old girl, a 9-year-old boy and two adults survived Monday after their car plunged off a Northern California cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway near a area known as Devil’s Slide. known for its deadly wrecks, officials said.
The Tesla sedan dropped more than 250 feet (76.20 meters) from the highway and crashed into a rock outcrop. According to Brian Pottenger, Battalion Commander forCoastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire.
Crashes along Devil’s Slide, a steep, rocky and winding coastal area about 15 miles (24.14 kilometers) south of San Francisco, rarely end with survivors. On Monday, the victims were initially listed in critical condition but all four were conscious and alert when help arrived.
“We go there all the time for the cars over the cliff and they never live. It was an absolute miracle,” Pottenger said.
Witnesses called 911 around 10:15 a.m. and crews set up a rope system from the highway to lower firefighters down the cliff, the battalion chief said. At the same time, other firefighters watching the sedan through binoculars suddenly noticed movement, a sign that at least one person was still alive.
“All of us were shocked when we saw movement off the front windshield,” Pottenger said.
The incident escalated from what had likely been a body recovery to a rescue operation that lasted several hours amid steady rain, high winds, slippery roads and crashing waves. The doors were smashed against the cliff and jammed, so firefighters were forced to cut the victims from the car using the so-called “jaws of life” tools.
The crews pulled the children out of the rear window and brought them by hand into a rescue basket using the rope system. They were rushed to hospital by ambulance with musculoskeletal injuries.
“They were more scared than they were hurt,” Pottenger said.
The adults, however, suffered traumatic injuries and had to be hoisted up the cliff by a helicopter. They were then both airlifted to hospital, the battalion commander said. It was not immediately clear whether the four occupants were members of the same family.
Authorities are investigating what caused the Tesla to pull off the highway at this location.
“I don’t even like driving it,” Pottenger said. “It’s definitely a dangerous part of California.”
The Associated Press