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California doctor who drove Tesla off cliff to be charged with attempted murder

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Rescuers work on retrieving a destroyed Tesla sedan that had plunged off a cliff in an area called the Devil’s Slide in San Mateo County, California January 2, 2023. San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

A doctor whom police say intentionally drove his Tesla off a California cliff – injuring his two children, his wife and himself – will face attempted murder and child abuse charges when released from a hospital where he was in stable condition on Wednesday.

Dharmesh Patel, 41, a radiologist from Pasadena, was placed under arrest after being rescued from the destroyed vehicle at the rocky bottom of Devil’s Slide, a notoriously dangerous cliff above the Pacific Ocean south of San Francisco.

Patel, his 41-year-old wife, his 7-year-old daughter and his his 4-year-old-son all survived the nearly 300-foot (91-meter) plunge to the water’s edge.

Patel was transported to hospital with serious injuries on Monday, the California Highway Patrol said. Authorities plan to book him into the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City upon his release.

It was not immediately clear whether Patel had retained a lawyer.

Initial media reports after the crash on Monday said the Tesla may have been in full self-driving mode but CHP has since said the driving mode did not appear to have been a contributing factor to the accident.

“Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” CHP said in a statement.

Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, the Los Angeles hospital where Patel works, said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of the incident.

“We are extremely grateful there were no severe injuries,” it said in a statement. “We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.”

The rescue took about three hours to complete, said Brian Pottenger, battalion chief of the San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit.

The children, who had minor injuries, were the first to be rescued, after which a helicopter hoisted the adults, who had more serious injuries, Pottenger said.

“The children were secured properly in proper car seats, and the car seats were secured properly into the vehicle,” Pottenger said. “The car seats saved the lives of those two kids, in our opinion.”

Rescue workers responded to a call after 10 a.m. on Monday of a car over the side of the road south of the Tom Lantos Tunnels in the San Francisco area.

The Tesla driven by Patel was traveling on the main part of the roadway before it veered off the cliff, he said.

“There’s always been accidents in that area where vehicles have traveled off the roadway over the years,” he said.

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