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Crime News Domestic Violence

California Police Say Father Intentionally Drove Wife And Two Small Children Off Cliff

Dharmesh Patel, his wife, 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were all taken to the hospital, California Highway Patrol said. Patel is charged with attempted murder and child abuse.

By Caitlin Schunn
Tragic Car Crash Crime Scenes

A California man is under arrest after the California Highway Patrol in San Francisco say they believe he intentionally drove his vehicle over the edge of a cliff with his family inside.

Dharmesh Patel, 41, from Pasadena, is facing attempted murder and child abuse charges. He will be booked into custody once he's released from the hospital, the CHP said.

In a press release, highway patrol officers said they responded to a call of a vehicle over a cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway, south of the Tom Lantos tunnels, around 10:50 a.m. on Monday. When officers arrived, they saw a white Tesla about 250 to 300 feet down a cliff. The Golden Gate Division of Air Operations posted this dramatic rescue video on its Facebook page, as technicians hoisted two adults up to a waiting helicopter. The adults had traumatic injuries, and were both flown to the hospital, according to ABC 7 in Los Angeles.

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Patel was driving a white Tesla, while his wife, their 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, whose names are not being released, were all passengers, according to ABC 7 in Los Angeles. Crews were able to pull the kids out of the back window and brought them up the cliff by hand using a rope system, the station reported. The children were taken to the hospital by ambulance with musculoskeletal injuries.

Brian Pottenger, the incident commander for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that the children's lives were likely saved by their car seats, according to NBC News. 

After talking to witnesses and gathering evidence, investigators now say they believe this was an intentional act by Patel.

Rescue Of Car Off of a Cliff

“There has been no determination as to what driving mode the Tesla was in; however, that does not appear to be a contributing factor to this incident,” patrol officers said.

This crash happened near an area known as Devil’s Slide that’s infamous for deadly wrecks. Fox station KTVU in Oakland said back in 2017 the stretch of road had killed three young people in the last 13 years. At that time, families of victims held protests demanding CalTrans install concrete barriers to the cliffs, according to KTVU. A few months later, CalTrans agreed to install a new concrete barrier about a mile south of the tunnel, after launching a safety review, the Half Moon Bay Review reported.

However, officials told ABC 7 there was no guardrail at the spot where the Tesla went off the cliff.

In an email to the New York Times, Pottenger reportedly said that the vehicle appeared to have flipped several times before landing right-side up, which drastically increased the odds for survival.

“It is very unusual for anyone to survive an accident of this magnitude in this area,” Chief Pottenger told the Times. “We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle.”

Patel is listed as a doctor at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, ABC 7 in Los Angeles reported, sharing this statement from the medical center:

“Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic accident involving one of our physicians and his family. We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.”

Neighbors told ABC 7 they were stunned to learn of the crash.

“They’re just like ideal neighbors,” Sarah Walker told ABC 7. “It seemed like they had a great holiday — they went to go see both parents. It just seemed very happy and great.”

Officers say this is still an ongoing investigation. Anyone who has any information is asked to call California Highway Patrol San Francisco’s office at 415-557-1094.

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