California man arrested after police say he intentionally drove off cliff with woman, 2 children in car

Jan 4, 2023, 5:42 AM
This image provided by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office shows the Tesla on a rocky beach below...
This image provided by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office shows the Tesla on a rocky beach below the cliffs, an area called Devil's Slide. (San Mateo County Sheriff's Office)
(San Mateo County Sheriff's Office)

(CNN) — A 41-year-old California man was placed under arrest Tuesday on multiple charges after he allegedly intended to drive off a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway with three passengers in the car, authorities said.

All four occupants of the Tesla survived the crash on Monday after the car plunged between 250 and 300 feet below the road it was on and into a rocky beach area known as Devil’s Slide, about 20 miles south of San Francisco, according to the California Highway Patrol.

In addition to the driver, an adult woman, a 9-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl were in the car when the crash happened Monday morning, according to Brian Pottenger, a battalion chief with Cal Fire’s Coastside Fire Protection District.

4 alive in ‘miracle’ after car plunges off California cliff

They were all taken to a local hospital with serious injuries, the highway patrol said Tuesday. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office previously said in a social media post that the children were “unharmed.”

“Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the state’s highway patrol said in a news release Tuesday announcing the driver’s arrest.

The driver, from Pasadena, California, was arrested for attempted murder and child endangerment, according to the arrest report. He will be formally booked into San Mateo County Jail after his hospital treatment is completed, the highway patrol added.

The relationship between the driver and passengers remained unclear Tuesday.

The four-door, white Tesla was traveling southbound on Highway 1 just south of the Tom Lantos Tunnel between Pacifica and Montara on Monday morning when it veered off the roadway. It plunged at least 250 feet below that road, and a dramatic rescue mission ensued to ensure the occupants were taken out of the car safely.

“The damage to the vehicle would indicate that it hit, and then flipped several times,” Pottenger explained. The car came to rest on its wheels, he added.

On Tuesday, the highway patrol pointed out that Tesla’s tech-savvy driving features were not involved in what caused the crash.

“There has been no determination as to what driving mode the Tesla was in; however, that does not appear to be a contributing factor in this incident,” the highway patrol said.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.

Occupants were trapped in the car

The California Highway Patrol was alerted about the crash around 10:50 a.m. local time on Monday.

Upon first-responders arrival, all four occupants were conscious, and the two children were secured into their car seats that remained intact, according to Pottenger. All were trapped inside the smashed car, officials said.

The California Highway Patrol posted dramatic video of the helicopter lowering a rescuer on a cable to the crash site while surf crashed against the rocks below.

As firefighters rappelled down the cliff to the car, other first responders watched through binoculars.

“As we were doing that, we were able to notice movement in the front seat through the windshield,” Pottenger said. “So we knew that we had at least one person that was alive.”

Crews freed the two children and used a rope to lift them up the cliff in baskets. Later, a California Highway Patrol helicopter hoisted the two adults to safety.

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California man arrested after police say he intentionally drove off cliff with woman, 2 children in car