A 4-year-old girl, a 9-year-old boy, and two adults survived after the car they were traveling in plunged 250 feet off a cliff in California on Monday.
The four people were inside a Tesla sedan that “traveled off the main portion of the roadway” and plummeted over the cliff, according to a San Mateo County Fire Department press release.
The vehicle flipped and landed on its wheels on rocky terrain, looking severely crashed.
The location of the crash is known as Devil’s Slide, which is well known for fatal accidents. Crashes along Devil’s Slide, a steep, rocky, and winding coastal area about 15 miles south of San Francisco that’s between Pacifica and Montara, rarely end with survivors.
Witnesses called 911 around 10:15 a.m., and the crews set up a rope system from the highway to lower firefighters down the cliff, said Brian Pottenger, a battalion chief for Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire.
As rescue members set up a rope system and were going down the cliff, firefighters looking with binoculars noticed movement in the front seat, meaning that there was at least one person alive inside.
“Every one of us was shocked when we saw movement out of the front windshield,” Pottenger said.
The victims were initially listed in critical condition on Monday, but all four were conscious and alert when rescuers arrived.
“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff, and they never live. This was an absolute miracle,” Pottenger said.
“I don’t even like driving it,” he said about the road. “It’s definitely a treacherous stretch of California.”
This morning, a vehicle with 2 adults and 2 minors went over cliff at Devil’s Slide in @sanmateoco. Witnesses saw the accident and called 911. The car plunged hundreds of feet down the cliff and landed on the beach. All four patients were successfully rescued. Watch the video! pic.twitter.com/HUM2SJ56Oy
— CAL FIRE CZU (@CALFIRECZU) January 3, 2023
The incident turned from what had been likely a recovery of bodies to a rescue operation that took several hours amid constant rain, heavy winds, slick roads and crashing waves.
The doors were smashed against the cliff and jammed shut, so firefighters were forced to cut the victims out of the car using the so-called “jaws of life” tools.
Crews pulled the kids out of the back window and brought them up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using the rope system. They were rushed to the hospital by ambulance.
“They were more scared than they were hurt,” Pottenger said.
The two adults were taken directly to the hospital via helicopter.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said via Twitter that the two adults “suffered non-life threatening injuries and two children were unharmed.”
It is not clear whether the victims were members of the same family.
The California Highway Patrol does not believe that the Tesla was operating on autopilot at the time, Officer Mark Andrews said.
The road’s conditions were also not believed to be a factor in the crash.
Officials are investigating what caused the accident.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.