Crash claims a life

A Cal Fire tweet indicates crews have recovered a single body from a crash over the cliffs south of Devil's Slide today. Photo courtesy Cal Fire

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.

(12) comments

Cid Young

CalTrans may have a plan to do something, in the future, at that spot - but how many must die in the meantime? Our local Coastside Fire Protection Department firefighters and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department are trained for Cliff Rescues and our local CFPD has budgeted $10,000 per year for such events, but it would not take CalTrans that much money to put up some temporary K-Rail until they can get Coastal Commission approval for a permanent solution, especially at that bunker, where they merely have placed some temporary orange cones which neither prevent hikers nor vehicles to access the steep cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean just south of the tunnel. With all the publicity it gets, every time this section of roadway has an over-the-cliff event, it’s not unfathomable to expect that possibly some of those “accidents” could actually be deliberate. And, if not, don’t visitors and residents alike have reason to expect some kind of barrier to prevent unwanted accidents?


At least, the guy won't sue the state because there was no "Don't drive at high speed and on a flat tire over the cliff" sign. It's impossible to secure all roads along the whole coastline, people who demand that should just take the 101.

Coastside Defender

I see that most previous commenters are making hasty, judgmental, accusatory and even crude comments based on the sketchy events included in this article. Whether this was a "Thelma and Louise" suicide event or just a very foolish driving accident, I don't know. But, to clad the many miles of the coast highways to prevent these sort of events would require huge tax increases and/or abandonment of many much more efficacious programs. Then do we start on median barriers everywhere to prevent the careless, distracted, impaired or suicidal drivers from wandering over the midline and and the paltry series of dotbots to head-on any one of us? Let's wait for the facts and temper our opinions with the realities of life and economic choices.


The eye witness stated she did not think the flat tire caused the accident. High speed on a flat tire can cause a vehicle to lose control. Speed and unsafe tires contributed to this accident. I would have to assume the driver was inexperienced and reckless, maybe even intoxicated. Whatever the causes for the accident, the eyewitness provides 2 facts. High speed, and a tire that was a complete blowout. The 2 do not mix, and unfortunately in this case it did not end well.


I totally agree. And, what a tragedy to hear about


A person driving like a maniac on a flat tire and then veering off the road at high speed and there are complaints about graffiti and an absence of no-trespassing signs. Strange take.


Did you read the eyewitness account? Full speed around two turns on a flat tire. Prevention probably wouldn't have been much help here.


Maybe there should be extensive in-service driving classes on not to drive on a flat tire. Going to the source of the problem usually solves the problem.


A sign near the bunker says no trespassing, and yet hundreds climb the hill. When are authorities going to enforce that rule? Shame.


When are the Caltrans higher-ups and the " everybody should have access to the coast" Coastal Commission going to get their heads out of their asses, look at the Facts/science of these crashes and pay their crews to install at least some decent metal barrier to prevent this kind of action from happening again North and South of populated areas all up and down the coast. Constant tragedies and families ruined because of poor planning and reckless authority.

Same goes for the exposed military bunker. That thing either needs to be covered up or the coastal commission needs to do the right thing and remove it. People are going to start falling off those cliffs and the graffiti is disgusting and far from artwork.

Shame on Caltrans and the CA Coastal Commission.....shaaaaaaame.


I agree - the whole situation is avoidable and CalTrans and the state are to blame .. our kids dive this road and it’s fffng dangerous considering it’s one of the only routes out of town ! fix it before your loved ones are found in the ocean !


Shameful—. I guess when it’s YOUR family member things will change —. Disgraceful

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