Driver Charged With Attempted Murder After Tesla Carrying Family Plunged Off Cliff
A California man was charged with three counts of attempted murder Monday amid suspicions that he intentionally drove his Tesla off a cliff with his family in the car. Dharmesh Patel has yet to enter a plea, according to People.
The Pasadena radiologist was arraigned at the San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City and is being held without bail in the San Mateo County Jail, per ABC News. Patel was first arrested at Stanford Hospital on Jan. 3, one day after the incident.
Patel had been driving his car along an infamous stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway known as the Devil’s Slide — which has seen a number of fatal accidents over the decades — with his wife, 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son when the vehicle careened off a 250-foot cliff.
Emergency personnel managed to rescue the whole family, and the children sustained relatively minor injuries.
“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live,” Brian Pottenger, a battalion chief for the Coastside Fire Protection District, said at the time. “This was an absolute miracle.”
Neha Patel, the driver's wife, reportedly told paramedics that he "intentionally tried to kill us."
But suspicions quickly arose that Patel may have crashed on purpose — with his own wife allegedly saying as much to paramedics.
“‘He intentionally tried to kill us.’ … We have multiple people who heard her say that,” Steve Wagstaffe, the San Mateo district attorney, told People on Tuesday.
Wagstaffe said the woman, Neha Patel, “didn’t get into detail,” as she was rushed away for medical aid. She is currently hospitalized and has so far declined, via her attorney, to make further statements about the incident, the DA said.
Wagstaffe told People that two witnesses behind the car noticed “a lack of brake lights” from the vehicle. Security footage from a nearby tunnel was apparently even more troubling.
Patel and his wife were helicoptered to a hospital with traumatic injuries after the crash.
Video shows the car “coming out of the tunnel, going up the hill, making a right turn off the road into a dirt area at the top,” Wagstaffe told the outlet. “And then a sharp right turn down and over the edge and down the cliff.”
The Tesla is being checked for failures that might have contributed to the crash, but Wagstaffe said he believes it was “an intentional act.” Investigators are still determining a possible motive for what Wagstaffe alleged was a “murder-suicide” attempt.
A court hearing for Dharmesh Patel is set for Feb. 9.