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December 8, 2023

Woman faces criminal charges after car plunges off cliff with children inside

Surfers save woman, two kids

[This story was updated from an earlier version. — Editor]

LIVE OAK—A Live Oak woman who reportedly drove her car off a cliff into the sea with her two children on Sept. 17 is now facing attempted homicide and child endangerment charges, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said.

The 38-year-old woman, who has not been named, and her children survived the dramatic plunge into the surf thanks to a pair of surfers who rushed to their aid.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Robbins said the woman has not been booked into County Jail pending release from medical treatment.

Around 8:30am witnesses reported seeing a Nissan sedan shoot off the cliff at Sunny Cove (17th Avenue) in Live Oak with a woman at the wheel and her two children. The car reportedly barreled down Sunny Cove Drive off of East Cliff Drive at a high speed, through a guardrail and wood bench before landing in the ocean.

A surfer in the water saw the crash and paddled over to the car that quickly sank in the surf at the base of a cliff with the trio trapped inside.

Another surfer, Joe Evans, said he heard the car smash through a guardrail and into the sea from where he stood on land.

“I was checking the waves when I heard this big crunch and I saw it go over,” he said. “I ran over there. There was another surfer out in the water. We both got there about the same time. Everyone was still in the car. The surfer helped them get out. He used his surfboard as a backboard. We got them on the beach and got them stable.”

Evans guessed that the kids were “grade school” ages.

“She was pretty banged up,” he said.

The woman was taken to Dominican Hospital and was later flown by CALSTAR air ambulance to an out of county trauma center. Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ashley Keehn said the children suffered minor injuries.

The California Highway Patrol, Harbor Patrol, State Park Lifeguards, Capitola Police, American Medical Response paramedics and Central Fire assisted the Sheriff’s Office.

Keehn said the cause of the crash was still under investigation.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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