Malibu Canyon Road was closed from Mulholland Highway to Civic Center Way for over nine hours on Monday due to a fire caused by a car going over the edge of the canyon south of the tunnel.
The accident occurred just after 11 a.m. on Monday, June 21, when a 2013 Tesla registered to a 53-year-old male from Calabasas went over the edge of the canyon, falling an estimated 500 feet. The car then caught fire, quickly engulfing the surrounding dry brush in flames.
The Tesla had one occupant, an unidentified driver, who died at the scene.
“We can’t confirm the identity yet,” California Highway Patrol spokesperson Leland Tang told The Malibu Times Tuesday afternoon. “His body was so badly burned that we couldn’t even tell gender; we couldn’t tell if it was a human being.”
As of Tuesday, the victim was undergoing an autopsy by the Los Angeles County Coroner.
In total, the fire burned approximately three acres.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department classified the blaze as a two-alarm fire, with 180 firefighters on scene throughout the early afternoon working to extinguish the blaze.
According to L.A. County Fire Dept. Captain Mora, who spoke to The Malibu Times at approximately 12:10 p.m. Monday, the fire that was ignited by the car had begun to build, moving uphill to the north.
“If it’s building uphill, it’s going to go faster,” Mora explained. “Light [brush] is fueled by vapor quickly and they spread faster … the actual spread just depends on the weather, the topography and the terrain itself.”
Fortunately, firefighters were successful.
Reports state one firefighter sustained minor injuries before the flames were quelled at approximately 1 p.m.
The roadway remained closed until 9 p.m. Monday evening, causing traffic jams at both Topanga Canyon Road and Kanan Dume Road during evening rush hour.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, explained Tang, who expressed little hope of finding evidence in the charred wreckage.
“The car is not even there, the fire melted the car down to nothing — there’s like nothing there,” Tang described.
When asked what caused the car to fatally veer off course and tumble into the Canyon, Tang said investigators have “no idea.”
“We’re going to have to put together as best we can, because there’s no vehicle for us to look at, there’s nothing left of it, and there’s not a lot of physical evidence at the scene,” Tang said.
“The fire did a real big number on everything there, so it pretty much almost,” Tang said, and then paused. “If the fire department didn’t get there, it would have cremated him too. There wouldn’t have even been a body there.
“It melted the car.”