California doctor who drove Tesla off a cliff to face charges of attempted murder

Jan 4 (Reuters) – A doctor who police say deliberately drove his Tesla off a California cliff – injuring his two children, his wife and himself – is charged with attempted murder and child molestation, when he is discharged from a hospital where he was in stable condition Wednesday.

Dharmesh Patel, 41, a Pasadena radiologist, was arrested after being rescued from the wrecked vehicle on the rocky bottom of Devil’s Slide, a notoriously dangerous cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean south of San Francisco.

Patel, his 41-year-old wife, 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son all survived the 300-foot fall to the water’s edge.

Patel was taken to the hospital Monday with serious injuries, the California Highway Patrol said. Authorities plan to transfer him to the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City upon his release.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Patel had hired an attorney.

Initial media reports following Monday’s crash said the Tesla may have been in fully self-driving mode, but CHP has since said the driving mode did not appear to have contributed to the accident.

“Based on the evidence gathered, investigators have developed probable reason to believe that this incident was a premeditated act,” CHP said in a statement.

Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, the Los Angeles hospital where Patel works, said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of the incident.

“We are very grateful that there were no serious injuries,” it said in a statement. “We will not respond further as this incident is under investigation.”

The rescue took about three hours, said Brian Pottenger, battalion commander for the San Mateo-Santa Cruz unit.

The slightly injured children were the first to be rescued, after which a helicopter pulled up the seriously injured adults, Pottenger said.

“The children were properly secured in appropriate car seats, and the car seats were properly secured in the vehicle,” Pottenger said. “In our opinion, the car seats saved the lives of these two children.”

Rescue workers responded to a call from a car over the curb south of the Tom Lantos Tunnels in the San Francisco area after 10 a.m. Monday.

The Tesla driven by Patel traveled the main part of the lane before turning off the cliff, he said.

“Over the years, there have been a number of accidents in this area where vehicles have gone off the road,” he said.

Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York; Edited by Sandra Painter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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