Going off the cliff: California radiologist and family survive bizarre crash in alleged attempted murder

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Rescuers taking out passengers in the mangled Tesla Jan. 2, 2023, driven by Dharmesh Patel. Photo: Facebook San Mateo County Sheriff’s office

A forty-year-old Indian-American radiologist from Pasadena, California is in hospital as are his wife and two children, all of them miraculously surviving a bizarre car crash down a steep cliff January 2, 2023.

Now, police have charged Dharmesh Arvind Patel, of attempted murder and child abuse for “intentionally” driving his sedan, a Tesla model Y, off a 250-300 feet cliff to allegedly kill his family. Neighbors are shocked that a seemingly “great guy” literally went off the deep end with his “idyllic” family, People.com reported.

Neha and Dharmesh Patel. Photo: Facebook
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Dharmesh Arvind Patel, along with his wife Neha Bubna Patel (41), and their children, four-year-old boy, and seven-year-old girl are being treated at Stanford Medical Center in Stanford, CA, with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, in what looked like an amazing escape from certain death. All four have lived to tell the tale.

Ropes lying on the ground used to rescue the two children of Dharmesh and Neha Patel, by California Highway Patrol Jan. 2, 2023. Photo: Facebook San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office

According to news reports, while the children suffered “minor to moderate injuries,” Patel and Neha suffered “moderate to critical injuries.”

In a scene evocative of Hollywood thrillers, rescue crews pulled the two children out of the back window of the Tesla and hauled them up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using a rope, ABC7 reported.

The two children reportedly suffered musculoskeletal injuries and were taken by ambulance to hospital while the parents had traumatic injuries and were flown by helicopter.

Patel, who’s expected to be lodged in the San Mateo County Jail upon his release from the hospital, works as a radiologist at the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles.

“Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family,” the statement said. “We are extremely grateful there were no severe injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.”

In 2008, Patel graduated from the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. His wife, Neha, who hails from Dublin, California, works as a Polytechnic School teacher in Pasadena, said news reports.

In a press release, on January 3, 2023, California Highway Patrol (CHP) of San Francisco said that on January 2 around 10:50 am, CHP officers were dispatched to the scene after a call about the white Tesla over the cliff side on State Route 1.

After locating the vehicle, about 250-300 feet down the cliff, the officers with the help of the emergency personnel rescued Patel and his family and transported them to the hospital.

A California Highway Patrol chopper at the scene of the rescue of Dharmesh Patel and wife Neha Patel and their two children, after their Tesla went off the cliff on January 2, 2023. Photo: Facebook San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

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

The CHP went on to say, “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. Mr. Patel is being treated for his injuries and will be booked into San Mateo County Jail upon his release from the hospital.”

Based on the preliminary investigations, CHP, which is working on ascertaining details indicated investigators do not believe Patel was driving the car in either the Autopilot or Full Self-Driving function at the time of the incident. Having ruled out the auto-function drive modes as a contributory factor, the investigators asserted even the road conditions could not have contributed to the incident as they did not recover any guardrail from the scene.

“The car traveled off the main portion of the roadway. For what reason, we don’t know,” said Officer Mark Andrews.

“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle,” Battalion Chief for Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire, Brian Pottenger told The Associated Press.

“They are not under the gun because the suspect Patel remains hospitalized and thus they can investigate the case more thoroughly,” San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a statement.

“Patels seemed like the perfect family and they were often seen walking with their children and giving cookies to neighbors,” an article in People’s Magazine said.

“They’re like ideal neighbors. It seemed like they had a great holiday, they went to go see both parents. It just seemed very happy and great,” a shocked neighbor Sarah Walker told KABC. Walker is also quoted on people.com saying, “Really I can’t believe it. No one can believe it. They felt like newlyweds. The way they interact and look at each other, it just felt like they should be together.”

Another neighbor Heather H. called the couple “lovely people.”

Other neighbors who spoke to KCBS-TV said, “that the Patels drove to Northern California multiple times throughout the year to visit family.”

“They’re a beautiful, idyllic family, no indication of issues,” another neighbor Roger Newmark told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s so strange because he is a great guy. Maybe it was a moment of insanity.”

A witness Robin Johnson detailed about the incident to NBC Bay Area. “As I’m driving by, I’m like, Wow, he’s driving extremely fast to take that exit. You’re not even supposed to be going up that way,” she said. “And I can see in my rear-view mirror this car that just go over the edge and straight down.”

Since this is an ongoing investigation, the police have requested witnesses to contact the CHP – San Francisco Area at (415) 557-1094 for providing information.

(T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman contributed to this report)

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