Tesla plunges off cliff in California, all four occupants survive

Miraculously all four people in the car survived.
Miraculously all four people in the car survived. Photo credit: CNN

By Brandon Griggs and Faith Karimi, CNN

Two adults and two children somehow escaped serious injuries after their Tesla plunged off a cliff along California's Pacific Coast Highway and crashed on a rocky beach some 250 feet below.

The incident occurred Monday morning at an area called Devil's Slide, some 20 miles south of San Francisco.

"We were very shocked" to discover that people in the car had survived the crash, said Brian Pottenger, battalion chief with Cal Fire's Coastside Fire Protection District.

"Accidents on that cliff are not rare. We do respond to a lot of vehicles on that cliff," he told CNN. "What's rare is that we do not get a lot of survivors -- surviving this type of accident is very rare."

Pottenger said the car contained an adult male, an adult female, a 9-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. The children were both secured in car seats, which remained intact and in place, he said.

Officials said the four-door, white Tesla sedan was traveling southbound on Highway 1, just south of the Tom Lantos Tunnel between Pacifica and Montara, when it veered off the roadway. They did not cite a reason for the crash.

A spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol told CNN they do not believe any of the Tesla's self-driving features were active at the time.

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

Firefighters rappelled down the cliff to the car while 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."

The car's occupants were trapped inside the mangled vehicle, officials said. All four were conscious when the fire department reached them, Pottenger told CNN.

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.

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.

The San Mateo Sheriff's Office said Monday that the two adults suffered "non-life threatening injuries" and the two children were "unharmed."

The car's occupants were transported to Stanford Medical Center for treatment, Pottenger said. An update on their conditions was not available Tuesday.

Officials have not released the identities of the four survivors or said whether all four were from the same family.

The CHP is investigating and will determine the cause of the crash, Pottenger said.

"This was a traumatic accident, and they survived," he said. "And it was a good outcome to a very bad situation."