Updated 8:50 a.m. Sept. 17: A black sport utility vehicle went over the cliff south of the Devil's Slide tunnels on Wednesday afternoon, resulting in at least one fatality. On Thursday, authorities identified the driver who died in the crash as 73-year-old Anthony Colonnese Jr. of San Francisco.
Media reports say Colonnese was ejected from the vehicle and found along with the vehicle on the beach below the roadway.
An eyewitness described a terrifying moment leading up to the crash.
Eyewitness Marion Bliss told the Review she was driving northbound with her son shortly after 2 p.m. when they saw the vehicle accelerate quickly out of the Gray Whale Cove State Beach parking lot and head north toward the tunnel. Bliss said it appeared the rear right tire was flat.
“He was speeding so much the tire basically disintegrated and pieces of the tire were flying around us,” she said.
Bliss said she kept a safe distance from the car but saw it veer left at full speed and go over the cliff near the former military bunker. She said it did not appear that the tire caused the vehicle to lose control.
“There were a couple of girls standing there when it happened and they were just covering their mouths, not believing what they saw,” Bliss said.
CHP dispatchers indicated the vehicle landed on its wheels on the beach below.
Emergency crews from the Coastside Fire Protection District, North Coast Fire Authority, San Mateo County Fire Department, American Medical Response, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, and CalTrans responded. California Highway Patrol dispatched one helicopter.
Traffic was backed up north and south of the tunnels as law enforcement conducted one-way traffic control for more than three hours. At 5:35 p.m., CHP San Francisco tweeted it expected to reopen the road in 90-120 minutes.