Tesla driver who went off cliff charged with attempted murder

This image from video provided by San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office shows a helicopter rescue after a Tesla plunged off a Northern California cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, near an area known as Devil’s Slide, leaving four people in critical condition, a fire official said. (San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

(NewsNation) — A California man accused of intentionally driving his car 250 feet off a cliff known for fatal wrecks has been charged with attempted murder.

Dharmesh Patel, 41, of Pasadena, also faces enhancements for great bodily injury and domestic violence, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. It was witness statements from family and motorists, as well as video footage from the nearby Tom Lantos tunnels, that provided enough evidence to charge the radiologist and father of two, Wagstaffe said.

Patel — who was booked in jail Friday — as well as his wife and two young children, ages 7 and 4, were injured Jan. 2 after his Tesla sedan went over the cliff at Devil’s Slide along the Pacific Coast Highway. All four family members were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. While the daughter suffered a serious injury, the boy escaped with only bruises, the newspaper reported.

Firefighters cut open the Tesla to save the family.

Patel’s wife, who is still hospitalized, was “screaming” about her husband’s “intentionality” to paramedics who rappelled down the cliff to rescue the family, Wagstaffe said, though he declined to share exactly what she said.

“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 also his own life,” Wagstaffe said. “By some miracle that I don’t understand, all of them have survived.”

Patel’s lawyer, Josh Bentley, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wagstaffe, according to the Chronicle, said his office is still looking into why Patel allegedly drove off the cliff.

“Was there depression or anything else?” Wagstaffe said. “It wasn’t just that he was trying to kill them, he was trying to kill himself too.”

Both children have been staying with one of Patel’s sisters, Wagstaffe said.

A plea is expected to be entered on Feb. 9 according to NewsNation affiliate KRON in San Francisco.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KRON contributed to this report.


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