California doctor who drove family off cliff in Tesla charged with attempted murder
Charges have been filed against the doctor accused of intentionally driving his car off a cliff in Northern California while his family was inside.
On Jan. 2, 2022, the Tesla sedan plunged more than 250 feet down the cliff at Devil’s Slide in San Mateo County after Dharmesh A. Patel, 42, allegedly intentionally drove it over.
Inside the vehicle were his wife Neha, 41, their 7-year-old daughter and their 4-year-old son.
This Tesla Model Y fell 300ft down a cliff in California and miraculously the four occupants, including a 4 year old and 9 year old, survived the crash, but with serious injuries. The family was airlifted to hospital. Hopefully they all make it through.pic.twitter.com/TlB7lALqWE
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— Drive Tesla 🇨🇦 (@DriveTeslaca) January 3, 2023
Following the incident, rescuers hailed the whole family’s survival as a miracle. The children escaped with musculoskeletal injuries, while the parents suffered traumatic injuries.
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Rescuers had to set up a rope system to retrieve the family.
During the rescue operation, Neha, who was still conscious as paramedics rescued her, made a statement against her husband.
“He intentionally tried to kill us,” she reportedly told paramedics. According to San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe, Neha "said very simply this was not an accident.”
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The California Highway Patrol arrested Patel on suspicion of attempted murder and child endangerment after the incident.
However, prosecutors waited until he was transferred out of the hospital last week to charge him.
On Monday, Patel was charged with three counts of attempted murder, with two of the counts having domestic violence and great bodily harm enhancements.
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He has been ordered held without bail.
Prosecutors have secured video footage from a tunnel that shows Patel “making a sharp right turn over the cliff,” according to Wagstaffe.
Two witnesses driving behind Patel before the crash said that they did not see the driver attempt to brake before going over the cliff. There were also no signs of braking or skid marks.
Officials believe that the Tesla was not operating in Autopilot or Full Self-Driving mode at the time of the crash.
“We have concluded that the evidence supports the fact that he intentionally drove his vehicle over that cliff, thereby obviously endangering not just his wife and two children but his own life,” Wagstaffe said during a news conference on Monday.
“We’re looking into what led up to this. Was there depression or anything else?” Wagstaffe added. “It wasn’t just that he was trying to kill them, he was trying to kill himself too.”
Patel is a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
If he is convicted on the three attempted murder charges, he could receive life in prison.