Motorist rescued from fiery Highway 1 crash arrested on DUI

West county firefighters and California State Parks personnel on Saturday rescued a motorist whose vehicle veered off Highway 1 on the Sonoma Coast and plunged down a 125-foot embankment before catching fire.

The solo-vehicle accident, near Carmet, was first reported at about 6:24 p.m. The male driver, the sole occupant in the vehicle, was impaired by alcohol and had been speeding on a wet roadway, according to CHP officials.

The driver, Paul Topai, 28, of Santa Rosa, was arrested on suspicion of DUI, said CHP Sgt. Jason Bahlman.

State Parks Ranger Alexis Jones was the first arrive at the scene.

“The car was engulfed in flames and the victim was lying next to the car,” Jones said. “I dragged him to safety about 100 yards away from the vehicle, to soft sand.”

Jones said State Parks lifeguards were next to arrive and assisted with the rescue. The lifeguards provided first aid and then coordinated with Bodega Bay firefighters to have the man hauled up to the road using a rope line.

Topai suffered serious injuries and was taken by ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Bahlman said.

It took firefighters more than an hour to extinguish the flames in the vehicle.

Crews from California State Parks, Bodega Bay and Monte Rio responded to the crash.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette