A Tesla sedan fell off a cliff while traveling along the Pacific Coast Highway on Monday near an area known for fatal falls. Two adults and two children were inside the Tesla, which plummeted over 250 feet from the California highway onto a rocky outcropping just a few feet away from the shoreline, according to the Associated Press. All four passengers were rescued alive at the scene of the crash, but were listed in critical condition as of Monday.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Monday, January 2nd at 01:00pm EST. It has been updated with the alleged cause of the crash according to police, who claim it was intentional.
After the Tesla went over the cliff, witnesses called 911 at around 10:15 a.m. local time. First responders and emergency officials are familiar with Devil’s Slide, a stretch of road between Pacifica and Montara described as “a steep, rocky and winding coastal area” south of San Francisco by the AP.
Crashes here seldom see survivors, so rescuers were surprised to see that “the 4-year-old girl, 9-year-old and two adults” in the car survived the fall, which damaged the Tesla so badly the doors jammed shut. During an hours-long rescue operation in heavy rain and wind — just feet away from the crashing waves — firefighters cut the passengers out of the car with the “jaws of life.”
The California Highway Patrol and San Mateo County Sheriff worked with the California Firefighter’s Santa Cruz Unit, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard to rescue the passengers. Multiple helicopters from different agencies responded to the scene. A battalion chief with Cal Fire, Brian Pottenger, said of the crash:
We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle [...] Every one of us was shocked when we saw movement out of the front windshield [...] They were more scared than they were hurt.
The children were pulled up and out of the crash by hand in a rescue basket, while the two adults had to be hoisted up via helicopter. The small boy and girl had musculoskeletal injuries, and the adults had undisclosed traumatic injuries. The children were rushed to a hospital in an ambulance; the adults airlifted.
What caused the crash in the first place was unknown at first, but police claim the Tesla driver may have gone over the cliffside intentionally. CHP claims that Dr. Dharmesh A. Patel will be take into custody on attempted murder and child abuse charges after he’s discharged from the hospital.
The new findings suggest the car was not using any ADAS — known as Autopilot or “Full Self-Driving” in Teslas. Road conditions were reportedly also not a factor in the crash, although there is no guardrail where the Tesla sedan fell off the cliff. CHP did not cite evidence that indicates whether the crash was intentional, nor do they have a possible motive as to why Dr. Patel drove off Devil’s Slide.