Video Producer: Akanksha Pandey
Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
A 41-year-old Indian-origin man was arrested in the United States after he allegedly drove his Tesla off a cliff while his wife and two children were inside.
Dharmesh Patel, his wife, and children survived the massive crash. The occupants had non-fatal injuries as they were rescued from the mangled, white Tesla by emergency responders at Devil's Slide.
Patel, who lived with his family in California’s Pasadena, will be sent to San Mateo County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse, after he is released from hospital, the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.
Horrendous Crash, Miraculous Survival
Investigators received reports that a vehicle had driven off the Devil’s Side, a steep, rocky, and winding coastal road south of San Francisco.
The car had careened off the treacherous cliff-top, plummeted more than 250 feet and trapped the occupants, but they managed to survive and avoid life-threatening injuries.
The Tesla flipped multiple times before it landed on its wheels and wedged itself against the cliff, just a few meters from the raging waters, Coastside Fire Protection District battalion chief Brian Pottenger said.
Emergency teams from the fire department, the CHP, US Coast Guard and San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office responded to the crash. Using an H30 rescue helicopter, rescue specialists repelled down to the crash site after several hours, where they found the family conscious and alert inside the car.
Responders noted that the two children were suffering from musco-skeletal injuries and were pulled out of the back window. They were subsequently repelled back inside the chopper with a winch.
However, Dharmesh Patel and Neha Patel had more serious, traumatic injuries, according to The Independent, and had to be hoisted up to the chopper.
“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle," Pottenger said in a video statement on Twitter.
In a shocking revelation, authorities later claimed that the drop was not an accident but an “intentional act."
"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."California Highway Patrol (CHP)
The CHP further said that there has been “no determination to what driving mode the Tesla was in.”
Moreover, while the make and model of the Tesla has not been officially released, a Tesla owner’s website identified the vehicle as a Model Y sedan.
Patel is listed as a radiologist at Mission Hills’ Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Pasadena. He was in the car with his wife – Neha – and their two children – a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy.
In a statement, the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center said that it was “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. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation,” it told ABC7.
The Indian-origin family’s neighbours were shocked to hear about the crash and arrest, and spoke highly of the family. A neighbour also mentioned that the family was visiting their parents on holiday when the crash occurred.
Sarah Walker told KABC, “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.”
Another neighbour Heather H noted that she did think that something was off on Tuesday, wondering why the family hadn’t come home yet.
An online profile of Patel stated that he graduated from the Wayne State University: School of Medicine in Michigan and has been a practicing medico for over a decade.
Tesla Racks Up Netizens’ Praise
The crash on Monday had led to severe speculation that Tesla’s self-driving mode may have played a role in the crash.
On Twitter, Drive Tesla CA said that the two children remained “unharmed” in the crash, and added, “If you want to keep your family safe, buy a Tesla.”
Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk replied, “Good news.”
Several users on Twitter further expressed shock over the incident and said that the family’s survival was miraculous. Users also highlighted the Tesla’s build quality, that apparently helped the family survive the potentially fatal crash.
One netizen wrote:
“With all the criticism of Elon Musk and dropping sales and stock of Tesla, this story at least suggests that Teslas are well-built for safety. Four people survived a plunge off a cliff and regular rescuers in that area are ‘shocked.’”
Meanwhile, another said, “Those Tesla cars are really well built. First responders said they never recovered live people from this crash site”.
Another user, tagging Elon Musk, wrote, “The fact that they all survived is a testament to how wonderfully safe and well built Tesla cars are… A man injured himself and three others, including two children, after driving his Tesla off a cliff in California on Monday. Absolutely amazing!”