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Harrowing video shows helicopter crew pluck motorist from rocky California bluffs

The driver of a Mercedes was in a precarious position after the car went off Pacific Coast Highway north of Los Angeles County and ended wheels up in the Pacific.
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A helicopter crew plucked a woman from a perilous California bluff after her vehicle went off Pacific Coast Highway and into the water, officials said.

Video of the rescue by the Ventura County Aviation Unit was published on social media accounts Friday. It shows the unit's skill as the helicopter hovers dizzyingly above the coast and a hoist is lowered to the victim's location steps from the crashing waves.

The 18-year-old woman was raised into the helicopter as it battled to maintain stability amid coastal winds, the video shows.

She was taken to Los Robles Regional Medical Center in nearby Thousand Oaks with major injuries, the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.

The woman was headed north on the coastal highway in a Mercedes-Benz when it veered off the pavement near Yerba Buena Road, north of Malibu, about 1:11 p.m. Friday for unknown reasons, the highway patrol said.

The vehicle ended up at the bottom of the rocky bluffs, authorities said.

"The patient was trapped on the top of the flipped over vehicle," Ventura County Fire Capt. Brian McGrath said by email.

She was able to get out of the car on her own, he said, but getting to the top of the bluffs for transportation to a hospital was not possible.

Fire department rescuers responded on the ground, but ultimately the helicopter was used to hoist the woman up and take her to a medical facility, McGrath said.

California State Parks and the Coast Guard also responded, the highway patrol said, though the Coast Guard said it did not send any assets, which it describes as boats and aircraft, to the scene.

High tide and "unsafe conditions" prevented the immediate recovery of the Mercedes, the highway patrol said. Coast Guard spokesperson Richard Uranga said an oil sheen was reported in the water after the incident.

The cause of the incident was under investigation, and the highway patrol said it was seeking witnesses.

The Ventura County Aviation Unit is jointly operated by the fire department and the sheriff's office.