The driver of a Tesla that plunged 75m off a notorious California cliff Monday has been arrested — after authorities say he intentionally drove over the edge with his wife and two children inside the car.
Dharmesh Patel, a 41-year-old physician from Pasadena, will be booked on attempted murder and child abuse charges once he is out of a hospital, the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.
“CHP investigators worked throughout the night interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence from the scene,” the highway patrol said in a statement.
“Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act.”
Patel, his wife, Neha, and their children — a 7-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy — miraculously survived after the electric car careened off the notoriously perilous part of the Pacific Coast Highway known as the “Devil’s Slide” about 10.50am.
The vehicle apparently flipped several times before coming to rest on its wheels.
Patel is listed as a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles, KABC reported.
“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 hospital told the outlet in a statement Tuesday.
“We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation,” it added.
Investigators have not yet determined what driving mode the Tesla was in — including whether it had its Autopilot function on — but don’t believe the mode contributed to the crash, CBS News reported.
“This remains an ongoing investigation and no further information is being released at this time,” the CHP said.
Several neighbours of the Patels were shocked to hear of the crash and subsequent arrest.
“They’re like ideal neighbours. It seemed like they had a great holiday, they went to go see both parents. It just seemed very happy and great,” Sarah Walker told KABC.
Next-door neighbour Heather H. told the outlet the couple are “lovely people”.
The family members were initially listed in critical condition but all four were conscious and alert when rescuers arrived. There was no guardrail at the spot where the white Tesla went over the edge.
“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle,” Brian Pottenger, a battalion chief for Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire, said Monday.
The crash even got the attention of Tesla founder Elon Musk, who responded to a tweet hailing the safety of his cars by writing “good news”.
First responders set up a rope system from the highway to lower firefighters down the cliff, Pottenger said.
At the same time, other firefighters using binoculars suddenly noticed movement from the mangled vehicle — and an incident that appeared to be a recovery of bodies turned to a frantic rescue operation amid rain, heavy winds and crashing waves.
The car’s doors were jammed shut, so firefighters were forced to cut the victims out of the wreckage using so-called “jaws of life” tools.
The children were pulled out of the back window and brought up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using the rope system.
They were rushed to the hospital by ambulance with musculoskeletal injuries.
Their parents had traumatic injuries and had to be hoisted by a helicopter that flew them to the hospital, the battalion chief said.
This article was originally published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission