SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - UPDATE
The driver of a Toyota Corolla involved in a violent crash at U.S. Highway 101 and Vista Point, west of Refugio State Beach,Thursday afternoon was found alive.
The female driver, identified as 30-year-old Santa Barbara resident Ana Ahumada, was located down near the beach area after possibly being ejected from the car during the crash. Her injuries appear to be minor with some scrapes and lacerations, according to the California Highway Patrol. The driver is believed to have been the only person inside the car at the time of the crash.
Emergency crews launched a hoist rescue to bring Ahumada up the cliff.
This story, however, is just the beginning. According to a CHP traffic report, Ahumada was contacted by a Park Ranger at Calle Real and Refugio Road for a welfare check. The Park Ranger told investigators that he contacted Ahumada through her driver side window before she began acting strange and making movements as if she was hiding something.
The Park Ranger walked over to the passenger side when Ahumada allegedly placed the car in reverse and took off westbound onto Calle Real. Although the Park Ranger got into his patrol car to follow her, he was not able to locate Ahumada. Minutes later, CHP says the violent crash occurred.
The CHP report states: "Ms. Aumada drove her vehicle on US-101 southbound, in the #2 lane, just north of Vista Point at a high rate of speed. For unknown reasons she veered to the right and collided into a telephone pole breaking it in half, and continue to collide into the berms surrounding the train track. The vehicle ended up on a berm near the train tracks. All trains were stopped from coming through the area and a foot search for Ms. Ahumada took place. After the initial search was unsuccessful a Sheriff helicopter was called to a search the area by air."
Aumada was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital after a successful hoist rescue. Investigators don't know if drugs or alcohol played a role in this crash, but the entire bizarre incident remains under investigation.
The California Highway Patrol and Santa Barbara County Fire crews are on scene of a reported car over the side of southbound U.S. Highway 101 near Vista Point.
The crash was reported at 1:08 p.m. Thursday. CHP reports that a vehicle hit a Verizon telephone pole on the side of the road before plunging down the embankment. The pole and wires are presently on the roadway.
There's no information on the condition of the driver or any of the occupants at this time, but the CHP Traffic Incident website reports that at least one person involved in the crash may have been ejected from the vehicle. No body or bodies have been found at this time.
CHP says that the driver of the vehicle may have been driving recklessly according to a witness that reported the incident. The vehicle was said to be traveling at 100 mph before going over the side. Other witnesses are reporting gasoline leaking onto the roadway related to the crash.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that the driver may have been involved in a crime.
Trains traveling in the area will be stopped while investigators assess the crash. Santa Barbara County Sheriff's personnel are on their way to the scene with a K-9 unit and air support.
No further details were immediately available. Check back for updated information as it becomes available.