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Driver in California cliff crash that injured 4 is charged

California Car Falls Off Cliff
Posted at 7:10 AM, Jan 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-31 10:10:18-05

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — The driver of a car that plunged off a treacherous cliff in northern California, seriously injuring himself, his wife and their two young children, was charged Monday with attempted murder.

Dharmesh A. Patel, 41, also faces enhancements for great bodily injury and domestic violence in the Jan. 2 crash, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a statement.

Witness statements from family and motorists, and video footage from the nearby Tom Lantos tunnels provided enough evidence to charge the father of two, Wagstaffe told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Patel’s wife, who remains hospitalized, was “screaming” about her husband’s “intentionality” to paramedics after they rappelled down the 250-foot (76-meter) cliff to rescue the family, Wagstaffe said. He declined to share what she said.

"We do believe the evidence establishes the necessary intent to kill,” Wagstaffe told the newspaper.

Patel's attorney, Josh Bentley, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Patel was scheduled to be arraigned Monday but Bentley asked for a delay until Feb. 9, which the judge granted. The judge also granted the prosecution’s request for no bail and ordered that Patel stay away from his family.

Patel, a radiologist at a Southern California hospital, was seriously injured and taken to a hospital after the car went over the 250-foot (76-meter) cliff at Devil's Slide, an area along the Pacific Coast Highway about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of San Francisco that is known for deadly wrecks. On Friday, he was moved to jail.

Rescuers initially hailed the family’s survival as a miracle. Firefighters had to cut open the Tesla Model Y to extract the family, including Patel’s 41-year-old wife, 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

Patel was later arrested after California Highway Patrol investigators “developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the agency said.

Wagstaffe said his office was still trying to determine why Patel drove off the cliff. Patel has not spoken to investigators since the Jan. 2 crash, Wagstaffe said.

“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.”