The wife of the California radiologist accused of intentionally driving his Tesla off a 330-foot cliff with her and their two young children inside early this year told authorities he plunged off the precipice “on purpose,” newly unsealed documents reveal.
Dr. Dharmesh Patel, 41, was charged with three counts of attempted murder, accused of driving off the Pacific Coast Highway and over a cliff at Devil’s Slide in San Mateo County on Jan. 2. He pleaded not guilty in February.
Miraculously, all survived. The two young children were 7 and 4 years old at the time.
Documents in the case unsealed Wednesday show Patel’s wife told authorities multiple times that he deliberately drove off the cliff.
She told a paramedic helping extricate the family from the crushed vehicle that Patel “had driven off the side of the road on purpose,” the filing said. “She repeated this multiple times.”
The court documents said that Patel was next to her and that he was coherent but that he “did not say anything unless he was spoken to.”
A second paramedic at the crash site said Patel’s wife was very worried about the safety of her children. She told that paramedic that “the defendant drove the vehicle off the cliff on purpose and that he was trying to kill them all,” according to the documents. “She said this approximately three times,” the paramedic added.
Patel's wife also told a California Highway Patrol officer: “He drove off. He’s depressed. He’s a doctor. He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He drove off on purpose.”
The highway patrol also interviewed witnesses who saw the Tesla before it plunged off the cliff.
Two witnesses reported the Tesla “accelerated” as it traveled toward the cliffside, and none of the witnesses said the driver tried to brake before he plummeted off the cliff, the documents said.
A nearby security camera also captured the moment the Tesla drove off the cliffside. It showed the Tesla traveling within the lines on the road, slowing down and turning right onto the cliff.
“The Tesla then takes a gradual right turn, plunging off the cliffside. There is no indication of attempts to brake or to turn the Tesla in a different direction,” the filing said.
The unsealed documents also shed light on what Patel said about the crash.
When he was interviewed at the hospital, “he claimed he had pulled over to check his tire pressure, which the Tesla indicated was low earlier that morning,” the documents said.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Thursday that “we do not think Mr. Patel’s statement is consistent with the facts.”
The unsealed filings also showed that when investigators asked Patel whether he was depressed, he responded “not really.” But he said he was feeling down about “the war and drugs and crazy stuff.”
The filing said officers spoke with Patel’s family. His sister said she spoke with Patel the previous night and recalled that he was “sad about the war and other things occurring in the news.” He said he was worried about “the future of his children due to everything going on in the world,” she said, according to the documents.
Authorities responding to the crash were stunned to find that there were survivors in the severely damaged vehicle.
Cal Fire officials said it was incredibly “rare” for anyone to survive such a steep fall. One expert described the family’s survival as “kind of a miracle, considering the impact severity.”
The white Tesla Model Y was visibly crushed on all sides after it barreled off Devil’s Slide, about 20 miles south of San Francisco, the morning of Jan. 2.
The car flipped over and landed on its wheels. Firefighters had to rappel to the scene, extricate the family and call for helicopters to hoist them to safety.
The unsealed filings said that Patel’s wife was hospitalized in critical condition and that she was in the hospital for over a month before she was released to an outside treatment facility.
Their daughter sustained a broken hand, and their son had a wound to the back of his head, the filings said. Once the children were discharged, they were placed in the care of the defendant’s sister.
Patel is due back in court June 12 for a preliminary hearing. Two of the three attempted murder charges include special allegations of domestic violence and intent to cause great bodily injury.
At the hearing, a judge will determine whether the prosecution evidence supports the charges of attempted murder, Wagstaffe said.
In February, Patel’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, told a judge that Patel’s wife did not want him to be prosecuted, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Wagstaffe said Thursday that Patel's wife talked to law enforcement after the crash and that "the next occasion for her to speak on the matter will be the preliminary hearing."
Emails and calls to Patel’s attorney went unanswered Thursday. No one answered at a cellphone number listed for Patel on Thursday.
CORRECTION (May 19, 2023, 8:30 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the condition of the family members after the crash. They were injured, not unharmed.