A 12-year-old boy behind the wheel of a Chevy led authorities on a wild high-speed chase Wednesday morning before crashing into a tree in Dana Point and fleeing as the car burst into flames, officials said.
The pursuit began around 1:17 a.m. when deputies noticed the Chevy Aveo driving erratically near Del Obispo and Paseo Carolina in San Juan Capistrano, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.
"They pursued the car because they thought the driver, a lone male, was under the influence," Amormino said. "The car was driving recklessly and without its lights on."
When the boy ignored orders to pull over, the chase began. Another deputy soon joined as the boy drove west toward Dana Point harbor, Amormino said.
The car then collided into a tree in the center median at Dana Point Harbor Drive between Cobe Road and Island Way, he said.
"The suspect then bailed and ran toward the water," Amormino said.
Harbor Patrol officers joined the search from the water, and found the boy "hiding under a bush near the boat docks," Amormino said. He was arrested.
Meanwhile, the car burned completely to the ground, Amormino said.
After the boy's parents were contacted, he was released into their custody.
It was not clear where the family resides.
"This was a dangerous endeavor, and he was lucky to have escaped alive," Amormino said. "It is a wakeup call to parents to keep an eye on their car keys. They should all be counting their blessings as it could have been tragic. He is the youngest driver to date that I have heard this happening to around here."