- The doctor accused of driving his family off a cliff told officials he was checking his tire pressure.
- But his wife said the crash was intentional, per The San Francisco Chronicle citing court documents.
- Dharmesh Patel is facing three counts of attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
The California doctor accused of driving his Tesla off a 250-foot coastal cliff while his wife and two small children were in the car told authorities he was trying to check his tire pressure when the vehicle plunged off the cliffside, according to new court documents obtained by The San Francisco Chronicle.
But his wife is telling a different, more ominous story.
Prosecutors charged Dharmesh Patel, 41 with three counts of attempted murder in January after authorities said he drove his Tesla off the Pacific Coast Highway over a cliff at Devil’s Slide in San Mateo County, California. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.
All four family members in the car, including the couple’s 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son miraculously survived the steep fall. An engineering expert who studies car crashes told Insider earlier this year that the family was lucky to be alive after the crash, crediting Tesla’s safety features and sheer luck with their survival.
Patel, a former radiologist in Los Angeles, told investigators he had pulled his car to the side of the road in the moments before the crash, The Chronicle reported Friday, citing exclusively-obtained court documents.
But Patel’s wife, Neha Patel, told first responders “multiple times” that her husband intentionally drove the car off the cliff, the outlet reported, citing court records.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe previously made similar allegations about Patel’s intentions, telling Insider in January that Neha Patel “shouted out” to medics that her husband had purposefully tried to harm the family.
Neha Patel told an emergency responder that her husband needed a psych evaluation, California Highway Patrol officer Aaron Sapien wrote in a search warrant affidavit, according to The Chronicle, and another responding officer remembered hearing her say that her husband drove the family off a cliff to try and “kill everyone.”
During a 20-minute interview with police after the incident, Patel told investigators he and his family were driving to his brother’s house in Montara, California when he noticed his dashboard sensor was showing low pressure, according to The Chronicle’s review of the court documents.
Patel said the car “began to feel different” as the family cruised down the highway, Sapien reportedly wrote in the warrant; Patel said he drove the Tesla over to a “dirt path” to check the tire air pressure right before the car went over the cliff.
Investigators noted that Patel said he wasn’t on any medication or under the influence at the time of the crash, according to The Chronicle.
“When asked if he felt depressed, he related he was not really depressed, he just felt down because times were bad in the world,” Sapien reportedly wrote in the search warrant. “When asked if he felt suicidal, he stated, ‘you know, not like a plan, not usually’ and related that he was more worried about the world.”
California authorities eventually rescued all four passengers via helicopter. Video of the daring rescue shows first responders dropping from the chopper to retrieve the family members amid the car’s wreckage and placing them on gurneys that were raised into the air one at a time.
Two witnesses told investigators they didn’t see the Tesla driver attempt to brake as the vehicle “accelerated” toward the cliffside, according to court documents reviewed by NBC News.
In February, an attorney for Patel said in court that the man’s wife did not want him to be prosecuted.
Neither an attorney for Patel, nor the local district attorney’s office immediately responded to Insider’s request for comment on Friday.
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