By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A minivan driver plunged in the vehicle off a California cliff Friday and into the ocean but managed to get out of the wreckage and walk on rocks to a rescuer who rappelled down to him, authorities said.
The unidentified man was the minivan's only occupant and was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries after the van went off the scenic Highway 1 that hugs the ocean in Montara State Beach south of San Francisco, said California Highway Patrol Officer Vu Williams.
Images from KGO-TV showed the firefighter rappel down the cliff and reach the man as he stood among rocks, with the wrecked vehicle nearby pummeled by waves.
The man walked to the firefighter, was put in a harness, lifted up the cliff, put on a stretcher and taken away by an ambulance.
Williams said the cause of the crash was not determined but that the minivan had been traveling south when it went onto the highway's shoulder and then plunged off the cliff in a hilly area known as Devil's Slide because of its propensity for rock slides.
It marked the third time over the last month that a vehicle has gone off a cliff in Northern California.
An SUV carrying a family on vacation was seen last week plunging into a storm-swollen river in Mendocino County.
The four members of the Thottapilly family have not been recovered from the Eel River but searchers located numerous items along the banks consistent with the vehicle and items consistent with a family traveling on vacation, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said Thursday. The Thottapilly family was driving home after visiting Portland.
Farther south along the Mendocino County coast, authorities continue to look for members of a Woodland family missing since an SUV made a deadly and possibly intentional plunge off a towering ocean bluff along Highway 1 last month.
Sarah and Jennifer Hart and their six adopted children were believed to be in the family's SUV at the time. Five bodies were found March 26. A body was pulled out of the surf last weekend but was not immediately identified.
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