yosemite mountain traffic - man steals car in yosemite and drives off cliff
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Man Steals Yosemite Park Ranger's Car, Survives High-Speed Chase and 200-Foot Cliff Dive

The man allegedly took the vehicle while the ranger was removing a bike from the roadway.

A 28-year-old man from Rancho Cucamonga, California allegedly stole a Yosemite National Park ranger's car and led officials on a high-speed chase, ending in a 200-foot fall over a cliff. He has since been indicted on three charges by a federal grand jury. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California, on December 26, 2022, Christian Claustro stole an employee's vehicle while it was pulled over on the side of the road, removing a bicycle from the roadway. 

Park rangers chased after Claustro, resulting in a high-speed pursuit. Authorities followed him to the Ferguson Slide bridge, an area known for its rockslides, where Claustro drove on the wrong side of the bridge, colliding with another car. He continued driving until he went off a cliff, landing 200 feet down at the base of the canyon.

Miraculously, Claustro survived the crash and is being charged with theft of personal property, fleeing or eluding a police officer, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. If he is convicted of the allegations, he will face up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine for the theft, up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the destruction of property. He will also face up to three years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 for evading the officers. Sentencing will be up to the court if he is convicted. Before sentencing, the court will take into consideration statutory factors, according to the press release.

While stealing a ranger's vehicle is a new one, bad behavior from park visitors is not. Yosemite had to introduce a new reservation system during their famed "Firefall" events to cut down on traffic and people's effects on the park. Last year saw people stumbling into areas they don't belong, breaking down riverbanks, trampling vegetation, and disrupting ecosystems. On top of that, people left trash and waste throughout the area. The park hopes that the reservations will help reduce visitors' impact on the environment. Of course, with all the parks, the National Park Service urges visitors to follow all park rules, Leave No Trace Principles, and local laws and regulations.

READ MORE: How to Snag a Yosemite "Firefall" Reservation for 2024