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‘An Intentional Act’: California Dad Allegedly Drove Tesla Carrying Wife and Two Young Kids Off ‘Devil’s Slide’ Cliff


A California man”intentionally” drove his Tesla off a cliff with his wife and two young children inside, sending the vehicle plummeting nearly 300 feet before crashing at the base of a bluff along the Pacific Coast Highway, police say.

Driver Dharmesh A. Patel, who survived the wreck along with his three family members, has been taken into custody and charged with attempted murder and child abuse.

“There has been no determination as to what driving mode the Tesla was in; however, that does not appear to be a contributing factor in this incident,” the San Francisco office of California Highway Patrol (CHP) said in a press release.

According to CHP’s press release, officers assigned to the San Francisco Area office responded to a call about a vehicle going over the side of a cliff on State Route 1 at approximately 10:50 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday, Jan. 2. The area, known as “Devil’s Slide,” is notorious for fatal car crashes.

Upon arriving at the scene, CHP officers and additional emergency rescue personnel located a white Tesla sedan “approximately 250 to 300 feet down the cliff,” the release states. Emergency personnel repelled down the face of the cliff to the vehicle on ropes and made contact with the vehicle’s four occupants, finding two adults and two children.

Firefighters brought the two children, ages seven and four, back up to the road safely on the ropes while the two adults were extricated and saved by an El Cerrito Fire Helicopter Rescue Technician who was lowered to the scene of the crash, according to a press release from CHP Golden Gate Division Air Operations. The dramatic rescue was caught on film, showing each of the adults being lifted from the base of the cliff on stretchers.

CHP investigators say they worked throughout the evening “interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence from the scene.”

“Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the release states. “The driver of the Tesla, Dharmesh A. Patel, of Pasadena, California, has been placed under arrest for attempted murder and child abuse.”

Dharmesh was being treated for his injuries Tuesday afternoon and will be booked into the San Mateo County Jail upon his release from the hospital, authorities said.

CHP said that all four of the vehicle’s occupants suffered “serious injuries.” However, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, which assisted in the rescue effort along with several other agencies, said that the two adults “suffered non-life threatening injuries” and the two children were “unharmed.” Neither agency immediately responded to inquiries from Law&Crime seeking clarification as to extent of the family’s injuries.

In an email to The New York Times, Brian Pottenger, the battalion chief of the Coastside Fire Protection District’s San Mateo-Santa Cruz unit, reportedly said that the vehicle appeared to have flipped several times before landing right-side up, drastically increasing the odds for the passengers’ survival and successful rescue.

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

Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC reported that Patel is a doctor at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.

“Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family. We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries,” the facility reportedly said in an email to KABC.

[image via CHP]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.