Father who drove family off California cliff charged with attempted murder

The family of four survived with non-life-threatening injuries after emergency workers rescued them from the rubble on Jan 2, 2023. PHOTO: NYTIMES
A crash victim is lifted to a helicopter during the rescue operation in California on Jan 2, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN MATEO, CALIFORNIA - A man who the United States authorities say deliberately drove his family off a cliff in Northern California early in January was charged on Monday with three counts of attempted murder, court records show.

The man, Dharmesh A. Patel, 41, was arrested after the crash on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse after his Tesla careened more than 76m off a treacherous cliff with him, his wife and two children inside, the authorities said.

Remarkably, all four survived with non-life-threatening injuries after emergency workers rescued them from the rubble.

But as details emerged from witnesses and from evidence gathered at the crash site, the authorities said, it quickly became clear that the crash had been no accident.

Patel, they said, had intentionally steered the car from the rocky bluff, and would be taken to San Mateo County Jail after being released from the hospital.

He was to be arraigned on Monday on charges of attempted murder, a spokesman for the San Mateo County Court said.

He is also accused of causing great bodily harm and committing domestic violence against his wife and seven-year-old daughter, state court records show.

Efforts on Monday to reach Patel’s lawyer were not immediately successful.

Emergency responders had been stunned that the family had survived the Jan 2 crash after they extracted Patel, his wife and two children from their mangled white Tesla.

The car had careened off a stretch of Highway 1, about 32km south-west of San Francisco, and smashed into the rocks abutting the Pacific Ocean, the authorities said at the time. The area is often referred to as Devil’s Slide.

Luckily, the car landed upright on its wheels, the authorities said, making the passengers easier to reach through the side windows.

It was very unusual, they said, for anyone to survive a crash of such magnitude. NYTIMES

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