Father accused of intentionally driving family off cliff charged with attempted murder
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A man who was accused of intentionally driving his family off a cliff in California has been held on attempted murder charges, in a crash that left authorities stunned.
Dharmesh Patel, 41, was charged on Monday following the crash earlier this month, which saw a Tesla plunge 250 feet off a cliffside along California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
Patel - who was in the vehicle with his wife and two children aged four and seven - was charged with attempted murder and child abuse.
Following Patel's arrest, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) said: "CHP investigators worked throughout the night 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 crash, which happened on 2 January, saw the car plunge onto a rocky area of beach, with authorities admitting they were 'shocked' to discover that the passengers had survived the fall.
The area of the cliff, called Devil's Slide - which is located 15 miles south of San Francisco - is sadly notorious for its crashes.
“Accidents on that cliff are not rare. We do respond to a lot of vehicles on that cliff,” Brian Pottenger, battalion chief with California Fire’s Coastside Fire Protection District told CNN at the time.
"What’s rare is that we do not get a lot of survivors – surviving this type of accident is very rare.”
Pottenger went on to explain that the children were both secured in car seats which remained intact and all passengers were conscious when they were taken to hospital.
“The damage to the vehicle would indicate that it hit, and then flipped several times,” he added.
As the rescue mission took place, Pottenger explained they noticed 'movement' which indicated that at least one person had survived.
“As we were doing that, we were able to notice movement in the front seat through the windshield,” he added.
“So we knew that we had at least one person that was alive.”
This afternoon, deputies responded to a solo vehicle over the side of Hwy 1 south of the Tom Lantos tunnel. Two adults suffered non-life threatening injuries and two children were unharmed. Tremendous collaborative effort btwn SMSO, @CHP_GoldenGate and @calfireSCU pic.twitter.com/sVyKp6LSrc— San Mateo County S.O (@SMCSheriff) January 3, 2023
The children were rescued first using a rope to lift them out of the vehicle and up the cliff, meanwhile a helicopter later lifted the adults to safety.
The adults had suffered 'non-life threatening injuries' and the children are 'unharmed'. Following the incident, a forensic crash expert has explained how being in a Tesla helped to save the lives of the four passengers.
Speaking to Business Insider, Professor Jahan Rasty explained the Tesla safety features that likely helped to save the lives of the passengers. You can read more on that here.
Patel is expected to appear in court on 9 February.