The driver of a Tesla that careened off of a 250-foot cliff in California intentionally drove the car over the edge, according to authorities.
“[California Highway Patrol] investigators worked throughout the night interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence from the scene. Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the California Highway Patrol said in a statement on Tuesday.
The patrol said the driver is Dharmesh A. Patel and he “has been placed under arrest for attempted murder and child abuse.” The passengers were “transported to a local hospital with serious injuries,” the statement noted. Officials did not comment on how the people inside the car are related to one another. However, the Daily Mail reported that Patel’s wife and children were the occupants and that Patel is a radiologist at a medical center.
“There has been no determination as to what driving mode the Tesla was in; however, that does not appear to be a contributing factor in this incident,” the statement added. Patel will be booked into San Mateo County Jail after he gets out of the hospital.
Officer Andrew Barclay, a spokesman for the highway patrol’s Golden Gate Division, said officials are set to book Patel on two counts of child abuse, as well as three counts of attempted murder.
Officials said the man drove the car over the edge of the cliff on purpose, trying to kill an adult and two kids who were inside. After the vehicle drove off of “Devil’s Slide” cliff, people who saw the accident called 911 around 10:50 in the morning on Monday. Firefighters arrived at the scene and rappelled down the terrain to save the two young children. Helicopter crews also took part in the rescue. In order to get the occupants out of the vehicle, emergency personnel used “jaws of life” equipment.
Brian Pottenger, battalion chief for Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire, said it was “very, very rare” for people to live through a steep drop like that, adding that the children’s car seats might have made the difference between life and death for the kids.
“Every one of us was shocked when we saw movement out of the front windshield,” Pottenger said.
“[The children] were more scared than they were hurt,” he added.
“We were actually very shocked when we found survivable victims in the vehicle. So that actually was a hopeful moment for us,” Pottenger said in a video posted to Twitter on Monday.
This morning, a vehicle with 2 adults and 2 minors went over cliff at Devil's Slide in @sanmateoco. Witnesses saw the accident and called 911. The car plunged hundreds of feet down the cliff and landed on the beach. All four patients were successfully rescued. Watch the video! pic.twitter.com/HUM2SJ56Oy
— CAL FIRE CZU (@CALFIRECZU) January 3, 2023
“We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle,” Pottenger told the Associated Press.