MONTARA, California — Attempted murder charges have been filed against the driver of a car that plunged 250 feet off a cliff in Northern California, injuring his two young children and his wife, San Mateo County prosecutors said on Monday.
Dharmesh A. Patel, of Pasadena, was charged with three counts of attempted murder. Two of those counts have domestic violence and great bodily harm enhancements, according to ABC7’s sister station in San Francisco, KGO-TV.
Patel was released from the hospital last week and jailed on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse. He is accused of intentionally driving off the cliff with his family inside.
He was booked into jail where he was being held without bail. The office didn’t indicate when he was released from the hospital.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he and his team believe this was an attempted murder case due to witness testimony. He said there also no signs of braking or skid marks at the scene.
“We have concluded that the evidence supports the fact that he intentionally drove his vehicle over that cliff, and thereby, obviously endangering not just his wife and two children, but his own life,” said Wagstaffe.
Witnesses who were reportedly behind the Tesla described in detail to investigators that there were no brake lights as Patel turned and went over the cliff.
Investigators were also made aware of cameras showing Patel come out of a tunnel and off the cliff.
Wagstaffe this week said that investigators are also examining the Tesla Model Y to rule out the possibility of a mechanical problem.
“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 told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re having the car looked at from top to bottom.”
Patel was seriously injured when the Tesla sedan went over the cliff at Devils Slide, along the Pacific Coast Highway on Jan. 2.
Rescuers initially hailed the family’s survival as a miracle after the sedan plummeted in an area about 15 miles south of San Francisco that’s known for fatal wrecks.
Firefighters were forced to cut the family, including Patel’s 41-year-old wife, 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, out of the wreckage. The boy suffered only bruises, according to investigators. The wife was badly injured and remains hospitalized.
The girl was also badly injured, though her condition is unknown.
Patel was later arrested after California Highway Patrol investigators “developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the agency said.
He will remain in custody on no bail. If convicted on the three attempted murder charges with special circumstances, Patel could get life in prison.
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