Whoa. This was almost SO tragic.
Doctor Dharmesh Arvind Patel, 41, of Pasadena, California, has been charged with attempted murder and child abuse after allegedly driving his family off a 250-foot cliff — on purpose! On Monday, authorities responded to a 911 call claiming a Tesla had veered off Highway 1 while traveling southbound near Pacifica. The car fell down a cliff south of the Tom Lantos Tunnel at around 10:50 a.m. local time. Speaking to NBC Bay Area, Robin Johnson, an eyewitness, recalled thinking:
“Wow, he’s driving extremely fast to take that exit. You’re not even supposed to be going up that way.”
She added of the driver:
“And I can see in my rear-view mirror this car just go over the edge and straight down.”
She immediately called for help and about 30 to 50 rescuers showed up at the scene. Rescue teams then used ropes to rappel down the cliff, also known as Devil’s Slide, which was estimated to be a nearly 250 foot drop, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Because of the insane drop, they sadly weren’t expecting anyone to have survived the crash — but miraculously, everyone did!
According to KTVU, they saw a passenger signaling for help as they made the descent down. Once at the vehicle with Jaws of Life, first responders found four people alive and conscious inside. This includes the driver as well as his wife Neha, also 41, and their four-year-old and seven-year-old. The kids were rescued from the vehicle first and hoisted up to the road via the ropes. They were quickly put on stretchers and assessed for the minor to moderate injuries they sustained.
Things were trickier for the parents and air support was called to help. In a dramatic video posted online by CalFire (below), a helicopter can be seen hovering over the scene, picking up the adults, and returning them safely to a landing area where first responders were waiting. Once everyone was rescued, the entire family was transported to Stanford Medical Center, where they were treated for injuries.
Dharmesh, who is a radiologist, will be booked into the San Mateo County Jail after he is released from the hospital. He and his wife sustained moderate to critical injuries, according to KTVU. Thankfully, they were “non-life threatening injuries,” per the San Mateo Sheriff’s Office, who also described the kids as “unharmed.” Very good outcome following a terrifying situation!
Brian Pottenger, a battalion chief with Coastside Fire Protection District, reflected on the scene in a statement to NBC Bay Area, saying:
“We came out here, unfortunately, for things like this. And it was nothing short of a miracle that they survived.”
He’s very right about that. Just take a look at the harrowing scene (below).
This afternoon, deputies responded to a solo vehicle over the side of Hwy 1 south of the Tom Lantos tunnel. Two adults suffered non-life threatening injuries and two children were unharmed. Tremendous collaborative effort btwn SMSO, @CHP_GoldenGate and @calfireSCU pic.twitter.com/sVyKp6LSrc
— San Mateo County S.O (@SMCSheriff) January 3, 2023
It is currently unclear why Dharmesh is believed to have driven his family off the cliff “intentionally,” but the California Highway Patrol determined that “based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act.” While investigators have not yet determined what driving mode the Tesla was in at the time of the crash, they do not believe that was a factor in the incident, per the CHP. An investigation is ongoing. Just awful. We hope they all recover quickly.
Witnesses are asked to call the CHP at 415-557-1094.