California doctor accused of intentionally driving Tesla off cliff with family on board

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A man from Pasadena was arrested for attempted murder and child abuse for allegedly driving a Tesla off a cliff in Northern California with his family inside.

The Tesla sedan plunged more than 250 feet down the cliff along Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide in San Mateo County on Monday morning.

According to Brian Pottenger of the Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire, the vehicle appeared to have flipped a few times before landing wedged against the cliff on its wheels.

Inside the Tesla were driver Dharmesh A. Patel, 42; his wife Neha, 41; and their 4-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

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All four passengers survived the crash.

“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle,” Pottenger told ABC7 News.

Rescuers had set up a rope system to retrieve the family. The rescue operation took several hours amid heavy winds and rain.

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The children were pulled from the back window and brought off the cliff using a rescue basket. Their parents had to be airlifted by a helicopter.

The family was rushed to the hospital. The children escaped with musculoskeletal injuries, while the parents suffered traumatic injuries.

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Upon investigation, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) concluded that the incident was an intentional act by Patel.

The CHP believes that the Tesla was not operating in Autopilot or Full Self-Driving mode at the time of the crash. The road’s condition was also not believed to be a factor in the incident.

Due to the probable cause, Patel was placed under arrest for attempted murder and child abuse.

“CHP investigators worked throughout the night interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence from the scene,” the CHP said in a statement, according to NBC Bay Area. “Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act.”

Patel, who is a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, will be booked into San Mateo County Jail upon his release from the hospital.

“Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family,” the medical center said in a statement to ABC7 News. “We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.”

The incident is still under investigation, with officials inspecting what might have caused the vehicle to veer off the highway. Witnesses are urged to contact the CHP in San Francisco at 415-557-1094.

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