- A father is accused of intentionally driving his Tesla off a 250-foot cliff in Northern California on Monday.
- The highway on which the incident occurred is notoriously referred to as Devil’s Slide.
- The San Francisco Chronicle found at least 30 reported deaths by Devil’s Slide within three decades.
On Monday, a Tesla with four passengers veered off a Northern California highway and plunged down a 250-foot cliff.
Authorities are now accusing the driver, 42-year-old California resident Dharmesh Patel, of intentionally driving the vehicle off the road, endangering the three passengers believed to be Patel’s wife and two kids. Patel is facing charges of attempted murder and child abuse, the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.
The road on which the incident occurred however has been the subject of dozens of rescues and deaths — so much so that that specific portion of California’s major coastal highway has ominously been billed as Devil’s Slide.
“We come out here, unfortunately, all too often for things like this,” Brian Pottenger, the battalion chief of the Coastside Fire Protection District told Fox News at the scene of the Monday accident. “And this, this was nothing short of a miracle that they survived.”
Since State Route 1, now Highway 1, opened in 1937, a relatively small portion of the highway between Pacifica and Montara cities of San Manteo County has been marred by landslides, accidents, and subsequent road closures.
“California State Route 1 … was closed at Devil’s Slide for the first time in 1940 and was ever after plagued by erosion and landslides,” according to San Mateo County’s government website.
Decades after the first recorded closure and repeated public calls for improvements, the number of fatal accidents near the treacherous portion of the highway mounted.
There were at least 30 deaths and 10 rescues near Devil’s Slide, based on The San Francisco Chronicle’s analysis of news reports between 1990 and 2021.
A major infrastructure project aimed to curb these accidents by closing some of the more dangerous parts of Devil’s Slide and redirecting vehicles through the newly built Tom Lantos Tunnels, named after the congressman who helped secure funding for the initiative. The tunnels opened in 2013.
However, incidents continued to stem from the area, with at least 9 recorded deaths since the tunnels’ opening, The Chronicle reported.
About three months before Monday’s Tesla accident, a man was critically injured after his car careened off the highway south of the Tom Lantos Tunnels. Firefighters rescued the victim from the bottom of the cliff, Kron4 reported.
Emergency responders who retrieved Patel and three other people on Monday called the passengers’ survival a “miracle.”
In 2021, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) proposed plans to install new barriers along the winding road. The barriers will be “see-through” in order to maintain the scenic views of the Pacific coast that continue to be the highway’s main appeal.
Construction may begin by the winter of 2024, The Chronicle reported.
A Caltrans spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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