Wreckage of pickup truck
The wreckage of the pickup truck off Sunset Cliffs. Courtesy OnScene.TV

A man accused of intentionally driving a pickup off Sunset Cliffs last year with his twin toddlers inside was ordered Thursday to stand trial.

Robert Brians, 48, faces charges that include attempted murder.

Brians is accused of abducting his 2-year-old daughters from his parents’ home on June 13, 2020, then speeding off a cliff into the ocean below.

About 4:30 a.m. that day, the toddlers’ mother called 911 to report that Brians had taken their children without permission.

At Brians’ preliminary hearing in a downtown San Diego courtroom, she testified that after he allegedly took the children, she exchanged several text messages with him as she tried to ascertain their whereabouts.

She testified that Brians repeatedly sent messages indicating that he was planning to drive off a cliff in his truck with the girls inside.

One message he sent read, “The girls are going to Heaven and I’m going to Hell to wait for you.”

San Diego police Detective Aletha Lennier testified that three minutes prior to driving off the cliff, Brians posted to Facebook that “Tonight, I’m sending my babies to Heaven.”

Though Brians’ wife initially believed he was planning to drive off the Coronado Bridge, police were able to locate him near Sunset Cliffs by tracking his phone, according to testimony.

Around 5 a.m., police Lt. David Bautista spotted the truck on Hill Street near Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. He testified the truck sped off westbound and went careening over the side of the cliff, landing upside down in the water.

K-9 Officer Jonathan Wiese, who rappelled down the cliff using a 100-foot dog leash, testified that he found Brians floating in the water and holding both girls in his arms.

One of the girls was crying and holding onto Brians’ neck, while the other was limp and seemingly lifeless, according to Wiese. He also testified that Brians was making angry statements about the girls’ mother and an ex-wife.

The officer said he helped propel Brians to shore by swimming behind him and pushing him through the water. Wiese’s rescue efforts earned him a National Carnegie Medal, which recognizes acts of heroism, and the declaration of an official “Jonathan Wiese Day” in the city of San Diego.

Brians and the girls were hospitalized. Lennier testified that both girls sustained numerous injuries including abrasions and lacerations. One of the girls was much more seriously hurt, with a brain bleed and compression fractures to her vertebrae.

Brians continues to be held without bail and is due back in court Dec. 16.

– City News Service