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Man drives off Grizzly Peak, undiscovered for four days

The spot on Grizzly Peak where a man drove his car off the hill an estimated three days ago. Photos: Tracey Taylor

[Update, 11:05pm: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the driver of the car was 53-year-old James Wright of El Cerrito who had been reported missing by his family on Monday. Wright was conscious and calm when he was found by Park Ranger Dave Flores and is in remarkably good condition.]

[Upate, 04.30.11: A comment left by a reader who is close to James Wright confirms that the accident happened on Monday morning which means Wright was in the car for four days. “Jim is doing great for what he has been through,” writes Albchar. “I can assure you, having driven many rimes with Jim, speed was not a factor , which is probably why he is alive and well. The family has been through hell and back but are ecstatic and grateful beyond words that he is alive and well.”]

A man who drove off Grizzly Peak between Centennial Drive and South Park Drive was rescued alive this morning, and taken to Highland Hospital, after being undiscovered for an estimated three days.

The car was spotted this morning at about 10:30am when an East Bay Regional Parks ranger caught sight of glinting metal about 200 feet down the side of a hill, according to the Oakland Police Department. The cause of the accident and the driver’s condition is unknown.

The car can just be seen buried in the brush and vegetation about 200 feet down the hill on UC Berkeley land

The rescue was carried out by teams from the Oakland Fire Department and the East Bay Parks Fire Department at around 12:30pm.

The car came to a rest on UC Berkeley land in the upper Strawberry Canyon area. Tom Klatt from UC Berkeley’s Facilities Department was on hand at the scene of the accident at lunchtime to supervise the removal of the car. This was expected to happen at around 1:30pm when special equipment and a big rig tow truck could be brought in.

An Oakland police officer and a tow truck await the arrival of the required equipment to bring the car up the hill

The land is an protected area, according to Klatt, not least because it is home to the Alameda whip snake, an endangered species. “It’s important to get the car off the land as soon as possible to avoid contamination,” he said. “In the past, cars that were left to rot would leak gasoline, transmission fluid and battery acid which is environmentally damaging.”

Klatt said there used to be a handful of cars going off Grizzly Peak every decade. More guardrails have helped reduce numbers but, he said, the university is pressing for more to be erected.

This is the second instance of a car going off Grizzly Peak this month. On April 13, an SUV plunged 100 feet down the same road near Fish Ranch Road. In that case the driver emerged relatively unscathed — he was able to climb back up to the road to get help.

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  • Andrew

    Oh man, poor guy. Hope he’s fine.

  • DH Parks

    Pretty crazy, that’s just right above the fire trail.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.panzer Eric Panzer

    Granted, I tend to drive in a manner that’s defensive bordering on paranoid, but I think I can fairly say that a lot of drivers take Grizzly Peak Road terrifyingly fast. When I take car-share up there to watch meteor showers, I’m always bundle of nerves as I try to balance my inclination to go tortoise-on-weed speed against other drivers’ compulsive desire to break the sound barrier.

    Short of someone falling asleep at the wheel or having a seizure, I imagine speed is a factor in most accidents on this road. Please, everyone: slow down, enjoy the journey, and try not to judge us snails as we creep, white-knuckled, up and down Grizzly Peak.

  • TonyV

    Actually there have been 3 up near the top of the hills this year. An 84 year old woman went off the road at the top of Pinehurst just before it joins with Skyline. She stayed in her car for almost 24 hours until someone spotted her. She was okay.

  • Vdeer

    more railings, especially near the curve just NE of the view spot where the Bikers park(not the cyclists, the bikers). I know that road well, still, it would be very easy to go over right there, as one might accelerate out of the curve and….with all the distractions there, just go a little too far over to right. There isn’t any railing there. or tree trunks even.

  • Voxhumana

    I can only imagine what his family has been through for the past 3 days! I hope he fully recovers!

  • Anonymous

    it happened Monday and they found him Friday sounds like 5 days to me or close to 96 hours… crazy!

  • Albchar

    Yes, it was Monday morning
    Jim is doing great for what he has been through. I can assure you, having driven many rimes with Jim, speed was not a factor , which is probably why he is alive and well. The family has been through hell and back but are ecstatic and grateful beyond words that he is alive and well .

  • The Sharkey

    Thank you for the update and additional information. Do you know why Jim was unable to exit the car? Was he trapped? It seemed odd that he didn’t try to exit the car while stuck in the ravine.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    I am working on trying to find out more.