Wife of CA doctor who drove Tesla off cliff ‘doesn’t want him charged’
The wife of a California doctor who drove his family off a cliff in a Tesla said she does not want her husband to be prosecuted, his attorney told a court. Dharmesh Patel (pictured left), 41, was charged with the attempted murder of his wife Neha (pictured right) and their two young children (pictured front) by intentionally driving their Tesla off the 250- foot Devil’s Slide cliff near San Francisco. Patel’s defense attorney Josh Bentley told a court on Thursday that Patel’s wife did not want her husband prosecuted despite an earlier comment she made saying the crash was not an accident.
Neha (pictured right), also 41, was hospitalized after the family went over a cliff on January 2 and told paramedics, ‘he tried to kill us,’ San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. ‘She said very simply this was not an accident. We do believe the evidence establishes the necessary intent to kill,’ Wagstaffe told the San Francisco Chronicle. The suggestion from Bentley that she nonetheless did not want him to be prosecuted came during his client’s court appearance last week, in which Patel plead not guilty to charges.
Patel (pictured right) has been charged with three counts of attempted murder, with enhancements of using great bodily harm as well as domestic violence. If convicted, he could face life in prison. A judge in San Mateo Court ruled that Patel can only have limited contact with his family, especially his wife, as he remains in custody without bail.
Prosecutors are expected to use traffic camera video from Lantos Tunnel (pictured) as evidence that Patel, who works as a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Pasadena, intentionally steered his Tesla Model Y off the cliff. ‘There are cameras,’ Wagstaffe said. ‘So we have video showing the movement of the car.’ That video, he said, ‘clearly shows his car coming out of the tunnel, going up the hill, making a right turn off the road into a dirt area at the top. And then a sharp right turn down and over the edge and down the cliff.’
State attorneys will also likely bring up witness statements, as two people who were allegedly driving behind Patel (pictured) on January 2 ‘who watched what occurred and were able to provide information about lack of brake lights,’ Wagstaffe told People. Patel was arrested after California Highway Patrol investigators ‘developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,’ the agency said. He was then booked into San Mateo County’s Maguire Correctional Facility in late January.
Patel’s Tesla is now being examined by the California Highway Patrol’s Major Accident Investigation Team ‘to see did the brakes go out? Do we have flat tires? Whatever they could determine from the vehicle,’ Wagstaffe said. ‘But there was nothing immediately that would indicate any type of vehicle disability or problem,’ he added. Pictured: Sheriff’s deputies work to free the car after the family was airlifted to safety on January 2.
‘I am convinced that, on the evidence we have at this point, that it was an intentional act. Now again, multiple things could occur, and this happens in criminal cases where the family comes forward and they give us a description of some things that put a different light on it. Or the wife comes forward and says, “Let me tell you what occurred and to explain it.” Or the CHP MAIT team comes back and says, “Look it, there was a mechanical difficulty with the vehicle,”‘ Wagstaffe continued. ‘So the facts, the whole story is not out yet. It’s just the story we have right now, it certainly appears this was an intentional act to us and that’s why we filed the charges. But we’ll learn, we’ll find out hopefully more as time goes on.’ Pictured: The wreckage of the Tesla at the bottom of the cliff.
Troopers were dispatched at around 10am on January 2 to reports that a vehicle had veered off the cliff on Highway 1, around 20 miles south of San Francisco. The steep, rocky, winding coastal area is known as Devil’s Slide. Fire Chief Brian Pottenger told reporters: ‘We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle.’ The car was initially said to have flipped multiple times. However, experts have since raised doubts, arguing the heavy batteries located in the floor of the Tesla would have stopped it from rolling. There was no guardrail at the spot where the sedan went off the cliff, officials said.
Patel was seen driving at speed northbound on Highway 1 and he is speculated to have performed a sharp turn before reaching the Tom Lantos Tunnel, which is where the Tesla veered off the road, first onto a dirt area and then down the cliff. Robin Johnson, who called 911 after seeing the crash, recalled: ‘Wow, he’s driving extremely fast to take that exit. You’re not even supposed to be going up that way. And I can see in my rear-view mirror this car just go over the edge and straight down.’ About 30 to 50 rescuers arrived at the scene, where it was initially assumed that anyone in the car must have been dead. A helicopter and specialist teams were required to rappel down the cliff to the car. It was not until hours later that rescue teams discovered the four family members conscious and alert in the car.
The children were pulled out first, through a back window, and hauled up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using a pulley. The doctor and his wife were more seriously injured and had to be hoisted out by helicopter and were then flown directly to the hospital. Neighbors expressed their shock after learning the allegations against Patel, describing their family as ‘idyllic.’ Roger Newmark, who lives several doors down from the family on a leafy Pasadena street, told CBS: ‘They’re the sweetest couple and they have the greatest two little kids.’
The hospital where Patel (pictured left) works as a radiologist also released a statement after the crash. ‘Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family,’ it said. ‘We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.’ According to an online profile, Patel graduated from the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan and has been practicing for more than a decade.
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