California doctor who ‘tried to kill wife and children by driving off cliff’ is seen in mugshot
The mugshot of a California doctor accused of trying to kill his wife and children by driving off a 250-foot cliff has been released, one day after he appeared in court for the first time.
Dharmesh Patel, 42, was booked into San Mateo County’s Maguire Correctional Facility and is facing first-degree attempted murder and child abuse charges.
He appeared disheveled wearing a red shirt with a bloody eye in a new mugshot from the prison, where he is being held without bail.
Prosecutors say Patel intentionally drove his Tesla off the deadly Devil’s Side Cliff in California, with his wife allegedly telling paramedics: ‘He tried to kill us.’
Dharmesh Patel, 42, was booked in the San Mateo County’s Maguire Correctional Facility as he faces first degree attempted murder and child abuse charges
His wife allegedly told paramedics he intentionally drove their car off a cliff in California with the whole family inside
Patel, who works as a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Pasadena, was transferred Monday to the San Mateo jail after he spent three weeks in a local hospital, having been seriously injured in the crash.
He is accused of intentionally driving his white Tesla Model Y off a cliff known as Devil’s Slide near San Francisco on Monday, during a trip north.
Prosecutors point to comments made by his wife, who remains hospitalized. She allegedly told paramedics ‘he intentionally tried to kill us’ after they rappelled down the steep cliff to rescue the family.
‘She said very simply this was not an accident. We do believe the evidence establishes the necessary intent to kill,’ San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Patel was arrested after California Highway Patrol investigators ‘developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,’ the agency said.
But Wagstaffe said his office is still trying to determine why Patel drove off the cliff, noting that Patel has not spoken to investigators since the January 2 crash.
‘We’re looking into what led up to this. Was there depression or anything else?’ Wagstaffe said. ‘It wasn’t just that he was trying to kill them, he was trying to kill himself too.’
Last week, prosecutors were seeking to rule out the possibility the car’s brakes had malfunctioned.
Speculation that Tesla may have been in self-driving mode was also ruled out.
‘Did the brakes fail? Were the brakes working? Were there any other mechanical malfunctions that would have led to him not being able to stop the vehicle?’ Wagstaffe said to the LA Times. ‘We’re having the car looked at from top to bottom’.
He noted, though, that the DA’s office is still in the early stages of its investigation.
Sheriff’s deputies work to free the car after the family was airlifted to safety on January 2
The wreckage of the Tesla is pictured at the bottom of the cliff
The car was traveling northbound on Highway 1 near San Francisco at around 10am on Monday, January 2 when it plummeted off the side of the Devil’s Side cliff
Troopers were dispatched at around 10am on January 2 to reports that a vehicle had veered off the cliff on Highway 1, around 20 miles south of San Francisco. The steep, rocky, winding coastal area is known as Devil’s Slide.
Fire Chief Brian Pottenger told reporters: ‘We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle.’
The car was initially said to have flipped multiple times. However, experts have since raised doubts, arguing the heavy batteries located in the floor of the Tesla would have stopped it from rolling.
There was no guardrail at the spot where the sedan went off the cliff, officials said.
Patel was seen driving at speed northbound on Highway 1 and he is speculated to have performed a sharp turn before reaching the Tom Lantos Tunnel, which is where the Tesla veered off the road, first onto a dirt area and then down the cliff.
Robin Johnson, who called 911 after seeing the crash, recalled: ‘Wow, he’s driving extremely fast to take that exit. You’re not even supposed to be going up that way.
‘And I can see in my rear-view mirror this car just go over the edge and straight down.’
The huge drop from the highway to the scene of the crash. The family members were airlifted to safety
Rescue teams had to abseil down the side of the cliff while others used helicopters to try to reach the family
About 30 to 50 rescuers arrived at the scene, where it was initially assumed that anyone in the car must have been dead.
A helicopter and specialist teams were required to rappel down the cliff to the car. It was not until hours later that rescue teams discovered the four family members conscious and alert in the car.
The children were pulled out first, through a back window, and hauled up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using a pulley.
The doctor and his wife were more seriously injured and had to be hoisted out by helicopter and were then flown directly to the hospital.
Neighbors expressed their shock after learning the allegations against Patel, describing their family as ‘idyllic’.
Roger Newmark, who lives several doors down from the family on a leafy Pasadena street, told CBS: ‘They’re the sweetest couple and they have the greatest two little kids.’
The hospital where Patel works as a radiologist also released a statement after the crash.
‘Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family,’ it said.
‘We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.’
According to an online profile, Patel graduated from the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan and has been practicing for more than a decade.
He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday, but his lawyer asked for a delay until February 9, which a judge granted.