DA investigates mechanical failure in Tesla accident after doctor accused of attempting to murder family
Prosecutors are investigating whether mechanical failure could have caused a California doctor’s Tesla to crash after he was accused of trying to kill his wife and two children by deliberately driving his car off a 250-foot cliff.
Dharmesh Patel, 41, was initially arrested on suspicion of attempting to murder his wife Neha, 41, their four-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter after running off the road in Devil’s Slide in California on January 2. .
But District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is now seeking to rule out the possibility that the family’s Tesla Model Y had a brake problem that led to the accident.
Have the brakes failed? Did the brakes work? Were there other mechanical failures that prevented you from stopping the vehicle? Wagstaffe told the Los Angeles timeyes. Let’s check the car from top to bottom.
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Dharmesh A. Patel, 41, was initially arrested on suspicion of attempting to murder his wife Neha, 41, and their four-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter after allegedly making a U-turn on Devil’s Slide in California on January 2
Miraculously, the family of four survived the fall to the water’s edge without sustaining life-threatening injuries. The wrecked Tesla Model Y is shown after the crash
The rescue effort at dusk on Monday January 2 after emergency teams realized the family was alive.
The prosecutor’s office was still in the early stages of the investigation, he added.
Miraculously, the family of four survived the fall to the water’s edge without sustaining life-threatening injuries.
The celebration of his rescue was short-lived, however, when Patel was arrested at Stanford Hospital later that day.
Police said Patel was to be charged with attempted murder and child abuse, and authorities alleged a botched murder-suicide.
The radiologist has since been transferred to San Mateo Medical Center, Wagstaffe said. He has not yet been formally booked as he is still receiving treatment.
It is not clear if his wife and children are still receiving treatment at the hospital or if they have been released.
Initially, there were questions about whether the electric vehicle, famous for its self-driving technology, had gone rogue and mistakenly driven the family off the road.
But experts have since said that the car, which has airbags adjacent to the two front seats as well as in front of them, may actually have saved their lives.
Police officers were dispatched around 10 a.m. Monday, January 2, to receive reports that a vehicle had veered off the cliff on Highway 1, about 20 miles south of San Francisco.
The steep, rocky and winding coastal area is known as Devil’s Slide.
Fire chief Brian Pottenger told reporters: “We go there all the time so the cars go off the cliff and they never live.” This was an absolute miracle.
The car was initially said to have flipped over several times, however experts have since raised doubts, arguing that the heavy batteries located in the Tesla’s floor would have prevented it from rolling.
There was no guardrail where the sedan went off the cliff, authorities said.
Patel was seen speeding north on Highway 1 and it appears he must have made a sharp turn before reaching the Tom Lantos Tunnel, which is where the Tesla went off the road, first into an area of dirt and then down the cliff
Robin Johnson, who called 911 after seeing the accident, recalled: ‘Wow, you’re driving extremely fast to take that exit. You’re not even supposed to go up that way.
“And I can see in my rearview mirror that this car just went over the edge and straight down.”
The car was traveling north on Highway 1 near San Francisco around 10 a.m. Monday, January 2.
Sheriff’s deputies are working to free the car after the family was airlifted to safety.
The huge difference in level from the road to the accident site. Family members were airlifted to safety.
Rescue teams had to rappel down the side of the cliff, while others used helicopters to try to reach the family.
Around 30 to 50 rescuers immediately responded to the scene where the occupants of the car were initially assumed to be dead.
A helicopter and specialist teams were required to rappel down into the rubble and it was not until hours later that stunned rescue teams discovered the four conscious and alert family members in the car.
The children were first pulled out, through a rear window, and dragged off the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using a pulley.
The doctor and his wife sustained more serious injuries and had to be airlifted out and then taken directly to hospital.
Neighbors expressed shock after learning of the allegations against Patel, describing his family as ‘idyllic’.
Roger Newmark, who lives several houses down from the family on a tree-lined street in Pasadena, told CBS: “They are the sweetest couple and they have two great little kids.”
The hospital where Patel works as a radiologist issued a statement after the accident.
“Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family,” he said.
“We are very grateful that there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further as this incident is under investigation.”
According to an online profile, Patel graduated from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan and has been practicing for more than a decade.
Witnesses said they saw the vehicle driving at a high speed down the highway before it veered off course.
The Tesla Model Y, which is the vehicle the family was traveling in, has multiple airbags. There are front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, and curtain airbags, all of which seemed to inflate. Police have not yet confirmed whether this saved the family.
Among those who commented on the case was Tesla founder Elon Musk.
In response to a tweet about how the family survived, Musk said: “Good news.”
Experts said the fact that the family survived demonstrates the safety of Tesla vehicles.
Mechanical engineering professor Jingwen Yu said Patel “probably underestimated how safe a vehicle could be.”
Speaking to NBC earlier this month, he described the family’s survival as a “miracle,” but highlighted the quality of the Tesla’s seat belts and hardtop, plus the fact that the car’s batteries give it a central low gravity to prevent it from tipping over.
Jose Granada, a professor of mechanical engineering at California State University Sacramento, said the car could not have rolled over or it would have been crushed.
Earlier, Fire Chief Pottenger had told the media that he believed the car “rolled over several times”.
Rather, Granada said the car made a direct fall and landed on pebbles and sand.
He compared it to landing in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese, although the drop at top speed would have been around 80 mph.