First responder recalls rescue of family who drove off cliff

(NewsNation) — The fact that a family of four, including two young children, survived after their car plunged hundreds of feet off of a California cliff is “mind-blowing,” Battalion Chief Brian Pottenger of the Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire said.

Making the family’s survival even more amazing, Pottenger said, is that it happened on the Pacific Coast Highway near an area called Devil’s Slide that is known for fatal wrecks.

After a Tesla sedan on Tuesday plummeted more than 250 feet from the highway and crashed into a rocky outcropping, it apparently flipped a few times before landing on its wheels.

“We located the vehicle, we got eyes on the vehicle from the top of the cliff and it did not appear that there should be anybody that survived that type of an accident,” Pottenger said.

First responders immediately set a rope system into place to get people down to assess the situation. When they were about halfway down, Pottenger said some of his colleagues noticed movement happening in the front windshield.

“At that point, our mindset changed from a possible recovery to a definite rescue of viable patients,” Pottenger said.

The two children, Pottenger said, were in the back of the vehicle, secure in their car seats when they were found.

“They had very minimal injuries and we were able to extricate them in a very rapid manner,” he said.

Because the mother and father were in the front seat of the vehicle and not restrained, though, they had more significant injuries, Pottenger added.

Authorities are now saying the driver of the Tesla, Dharmesh A. Patel of Pasadena, intentionally caused the crash and has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse. He will be booked into San Mateo County Jail after he’s released from the hospital, the California Highway Patrol said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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