A California doctor has been charged with attempted murder and child abuse after driving his wife and two young children off the side of a 250-foot cliff in his Tesla.
Dharmesh Patel is a 41-year-old radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Pasadena.
Patel was reportedly driving at high speeds, heading north on Highway 1 near San Francisco with his family. He decided to make a U-Turn and pull off onto a dirt area on the side of the road, then veered off the side of the cliff, which is known as Devil’s Slide, and the car plunged 250 to 300 feet down before it smashed into the rocks below.
Upon close investigation, it is believed that the vehicle suffered an initial hit, then flipped multiple times in the air before ultimately landing upright on its wheels.
The battalion chief with Cal Fire’s Coastside Fire Protection District said, “The damage to the vehicle would indicate that it hit, and then flipped several times.”
To the surprise of the first responders and rescue teams, the car remained largely intact and the family members all survived. After realizing the family was alive, the crash victims were airlifted to safety and taken to a hospital to be treated.
At first, it was speculated that the incident was due to the car’s self-driving technology which could have malfunctioned and driven the family off the road. However, it does not appear that the car was in self-driving mode when it went off the road. Something that the Tesla was certainly responsible for was holding up after such a major crash, keeping the car’s occupants safe in what would otherwise seem like a fatal fall.
Both adults reportedly suffered non-life-threatening injuries, while the two children, ages 7 and 4, were unharmed.
After the scene of the crash was investigated, Patel was charged with attempted homicide and child abuse after police alleged that this incident was an attempted murder-suicide. He was arrested on Monday at Stanford Hospital.
These charges were announced by the California Highway Patrol on Tuesday. The state agency said, “CHP investigators worked throughout the night interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence from the scene. Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act.”
The agency revealed that there “has been no determination as to what driving mode the Tesla was in.” They added, however, that the driving mode “does not appear to be a contributing factor in this incident.”
“This remains an ongoing investigation and no further information is being released at this time,” said the CHP.
After hearing about these charges, the Patels’ neighbors expressed deep concern and shock at the news. One neighbor named Roger Newmark described the family in a positive light, saying, “They’re the sweetest couple and they have the greatest two little kids.”
Once Patel has been fully treated for his injuries, he will be taken from the hospital and placed in the San Mateo County Jail.