Wife says husband ‘intentionally’ drove Tesla off cliff to kill family
‘He intentionally tried to kill us’: Wife’s statement to paramedics as they rescued her from Tesla is key to attempted murder charges against doctor husband who drove family off a cliff
The wife of a Pasadena doctor charged with the attempted murder of his family told paramedics who rescued them that her husband intentionally drove their Tesla off a 250ft cliff. Dharmesh A. Patel, 42, was booked into San Mateo County’s Maguire Correctional Facility in California and is facing first degree attempted murder and child abuse charges.
Patel’s wife (pictured top left), who remains hospitalized, told paramedics ‘he intentionally tried to kill us’ after they rappelled down the sheer cliff face to rescue the family, 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. Patel’s transfer into jail comes after he also spent three weeks in hospital, having been seriously injured in the crash.
He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday but his lawyer asked for a delay until Feb. 9, which the judge granted. The judge also granted the prosecution’s request for no bail and ordered that Patel stay away from his family. Patel’s attorney Josh Bentley did not respond to request for comment from AP. Patel is accused of intentionally driving his white Tesla Model Y off a cliff known as Devil’s Slide on Monday near San Francisco, during a trip north.
Miraculously, all four members of the family – Patel, his wife Neha and their two children aged four and seven – survived without any serious injuries. Although he has been accused of attempted murder, last week prosecutors were seeking to rule out the possibility the car’s brakes had malfunctioned. Speculation the Tesla may have been in self-driving mode was also ruled out.
‘Did the brakes fail? Were the brakes working? Were there any other mechanical malfunctions that would have led to him not being able to stop the vehicle?’ Wagstaffe told the LA Times. ‘We’re having the car looked at from top to bottom.’ The DA’s office was still in the early stages of the investigation, he added. Patel was arrested after California Highway Patrol investigators ‘developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,’ the agency said.
Wagstaffe said his office was still trying to determine why Patel drove off the cliff. Patel has not spoken to investigators since the Jan. 2 crash, Wagstaffe said. ‘We’re looking into what led up to this. Was there depression or anything else?’ Wagstaffe continued. ‘It wasn’t just that he was trying to kill them, he was trying to kill himself too.’ Patel works as a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Pasadena. He has since been transferred to San Mateo Medical Center, Wagstaffe said, but he was not to be formally booked until he finished receiving treatment. 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. Pictured: Patel is being held in a California correctional facility.
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 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 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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