Crime & Safety

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.