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California Doctor Arrested For Intentionally Driving Tesla Off Cliff With Family Inside
Dharmesh Arvind Patel was charged with three counts of attempted murder and child abuse after being released from the hospital. Police say he drove off the "Devil's Slide" with his wife and two kids in the car.
The driver of a Tesla that plunged 250 feet off a California cliff earlier this month, injuring his two young children and his wife, was jailed on three counts of attempted murder and child abuse after his release from the hospital.
Dharmesh Arvind Patel, 41, was arrested at Stanford Hospital and booked into jail on January 27, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He was arraigned on Monday and held without bail, according to San Mateo County Superior Court records reviewed by PEOPLE.
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Patel, a Pasadena resident and radiologist at the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, according to the Los Angeles Times, was located by California Highway Patrol at the bottom of the notorious "Devil's Slide" in northern California after witnesses reported a “vehicle over the side of the cliff on SR-1” around 10:50 a.m. on Jan. 2.
Patel and the passengers in his white Tesla Model Y — Patel’s 41-year-old wife, Neha, their 7-year-old daughter and their 4-year-old son — were extracted and rushed to a local hospital with “serious injuries."
Dharmesh Patel suffered "serious lower body injuries," according to the Chronicle, and his wife remains hospitalized. One of the children had a serious injury while the other remained relatively unharmed.
Brian Pottenger, a battalion chief for the Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire, explained in a video posted to Twitter that the car appeared to have “flipped several times” before landing on its wheels. Rescuers “knew [they] had at least one person that was alive” because they saw movement in the Tesla’s front seat before they cut the passengers out from the wreckage.
“We were actually very shocked,” he said.
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Pottenger told the Associated Press that the notorious stretch of highway south of San Francisco has been responsible for a number of fatalities over the last five decades, and that the family’s survival was an “absolute miracle.”
“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live,” he told the outlet.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe previously told the Los Angeles Times that prosecutors had been exploring whether mechanical problems could have caused the crash.
“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? We’re having the car looked at from top to bottom,” he told the newspaper.
But the California Highway Patrol told PEOPLE and Wagstaffe told the Chronicle that, after speaking with witnesses — including Patel's wife — and reviewing evidence from the crash — including video from the nearby Tom Lantos tunnels — investigators were able to establish probable cause to “believe this incident was an intentional act.”
A motive in the crash not yet been released.
“We’re looking into what led up to this. Was there depression or anything else?” Wagstaffe said in court, according to the Chronicle. “It wasn’t just that he was trying to kill them, he was trying to kill himself too.”
Oxygen.com could not reach the San Mateo District Attorney’s office for comment at press time. It is unclear whether Patel has an attorney to speak on his behalf.
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