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Driver survives plunge off cliff

SAN DIEGO — A suspected drunken driver was hoisted up and carried away by helicopter in Sunset Cliffs Monday morning after he drove his car over a 40-foot cliff and plunged to the beach below, authorities said.

Car Cliff Crash 02The crash in the 700 block of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard near Osprey Street was reported at 5:45 a.m., according to a San Diego fire-rescue dispatcher. The car landed on its wheels in the sand at the surf line. The man got out of his car on his, the dispatcher said.

The first rescuers to reach the injured man were two lifeguards who swam to the beach , Fire-Rescue Capt. Joseph Diko said. A paramedic then rappelled down the cliff to the beach on a rope.

Rescuers planned to hoist the driver up from the beach with a helicopter, but he became combative with the lifeguards and the paramedic, Diko said.

“We don’t want to put combative patients in a helicopter,” Dido said. “They got him calmed down, got him stabilized. We put him in a bag called a Bowman bag which pretty much just wraps him up like a burrito, and they felt that it was eventually safe enough, that it was flight safe, to put him in the helicopter.”

Nearly an hour after the crash was reported, the man was hoisted up in a rescue basket by a helicopter with a rescuer by his side. Without setting down, the helicopter flew away with the dangling patient and rescuer, who were both eventually drawn up into the chopper as it made its way to UCSD Medical Center.

The man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening, authortities said.

According to San Diego police Officer Dan Lasher, the man was suspected of driving under the influence. His name was not immediately released.

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