This image from video provided by San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office shows a Tesla vehicle that plunged off a Northern California cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, near an area known as Devil’s Slide, leaving four people in critical condition, a fire official said. The driver of the Tesla that plunged off a cliff in Northern California, seriously wounding two children and a second adult, intentionally caused the crash and has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse, the California Highway Patrol said Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023.
Dharmesh Patel pled not guilty to three counts of attempted murder in the January 2 crash that sent the Tesla Model S he and his family was riding in careening down a spot called Devil’s Slide. Crews arrived fully expecting to recover bodies from the wreckage when they saw a member of the Patel family move. In fact, everyone survived, owing to the Tesla’s famously safe body engineering and a particularly lucky landing spot.
The recently released court records show Neha Patel, Dharmesh’s wife, has been clear since the moment rescuers made it to the site what she believes her husband’s motivations were, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
From the moment she was extricated from her family’s crumpled Tesla, to her helicopter flight to the hospital, Dharmesh Patel’s wife repeatedly and unequivocally told authorities that her husband intentionally drove his car off a San Mateo County cliff in an attempt to kill his family, according to new court records unsealed by a judge.
“He drove off. He’s depressed. He’s a doctor. He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He purposely drove off,” Neha Patel told a California Highway Patrol officer on Jan. 2 as she was flown away from the crash site on the steep slopes of Devil’s Slide.
Rescuers had to rappel down the steep cliff face to rescue the family. While being pulled from the car, the wife told an emergency worker “something to the effect that the driver, her husband Dharmesh Patel, did it on purpose,” CHP officer Aaron Sapien wrote in the search warrant affidavit, a three-page probable cause statement seeking grounds to seize Patel’s property.
“She then told him that her husband needs a psych evaluation,” Sapien wrote. “She said that suspect Patel drove them off and repeated this multiple times.”
Another emergency worker heard her say Patel drove off the cliff on purpose and “tried to kill everyone,” Sapien wrote.
Dharmesh claims the Tesla was throwing out tire pressure alerts for the rear passenger side tire, and that he felt something was wrong with the car. He told police he only meant to pull over when the car left the road. Forensic evidence and eye witness accounts contradict Dharmesh’s account. The Tesla Model S was not operating Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Beta at the time of the crash. When police asked Dharmesh about his mental state he said he wasn’t more depressed than usual, given the state of the world.
Included in the court document are witness accounts, forensic data and footage around this stretch of California’s most famous stretch of road, Highway 1. Dharmesh’s lawyer claimed in court that Neha did not want her husband prosecuted, but the SF Chronicle could not confirm that. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe confirmed she has not recanted her testimony, but will not sit for questions until she is fully recovered from her injuries.
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