SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — What was going through Dharmesh Patel‘s mind when he, according to investigators, intentionally drove his entire family over a San Mateo County cliff and crashed their Tesla into the rocky beach below?
A search warrant affidavit was unsealed this month revealing what Patel told emergency responders who airlifted the family of four to trauma centers on January 2. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said it was an “absolute miracle” that Patel, his wife, and their two young children survived a 300-foot plunge from the cliff at Devil’s Slide on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Patel’s defense attorney told a judge that Patel’s wife no longer wants him to face any charges. Prosecutors said it’s not uncommon for domestic violence victims to become uncooperative.
Wagstaffe said, in about 80 percent of domestic violence cases, the victim will recant their statements and not want the case to move forward. “It’s part of the cycle of violence. This is a domestic violence case. I hope she realizes that there is a duty to her children and herself that there be accountability. We have her original statement,” Wagstaffe told NewsNation on Thursday.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher previously told a judge, “Regardless of whether she is cooperative, we believe we have sufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Neha Bubna was screaming on Jan. 2 when she told rescuers that her husband had just tried to kill her, their 4-year-old son, and 7-year-old daughter.
“He drove off. He’s depressed. He’s a doctor. He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He purposely drove off,” Bubna told an officer while they were inside a Stanford Life Flight helicopter, according to the warrant.
Patel, a 41-year-old radiologist based in Pasadena, Calif., told investigators that he was driving his family from Belmont to Montara. Patel claimed that he pulled off of Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide to check on one of his 2021 Tesla Model Y’s tire’s air pressure, the warrant states.
California Highway Patrol investigators were suspicious of Patel.
Officers asked Patel about how he was feeling during his family vacation leading up to the harrowing crash. “When asked if he felt depressed, he related he was not really depressed, he just felt down because times were bad in the world, the war, and the drugs,” CHP Officer Aaron Sapien wrote. Patel told investigators that he was not under the influence of any medication, drug, or alcohol.
An officer then asked Patel if he was suicidal. The doctor replied, “You know, not like a plan, not usually,” the warrant states.
NOTE: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, you can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, you can find mental health resources and information at the lifeline’s website.
Sapien wrote, “When asked if he’d argued with (his wife) prior to the collision, Patel said his wife was irritated, because he wanted to go to his brother’s house in Montara before going home to Los Angeles.”
A second emergency responder also heard Bubna say that her husband drove off the cliff on purpose and “tried to kill everyone,” the warrant states.
Witnesses who saw the Devil’s Slide crash corroborated the wife’s story, not Patel’s version of events. The witness on scene told CHP officers that the Tesla was traveling 40 miles per hour, never braked, and never slowed down before driving directly toward the cliff and driving over.
CHP investigators declared the crash as intentional, and prosecutors charged Patel with three counts of attempted murder.
“Dharmesh Patel … deliberately and willfully turned onto an unpaved road, continuing up the dirt/sand road and driving off the cliffside with the intent of killing himself and his passengers,” Sapien wrote.
Wagstaffe told NewsNation this week that Patel’s young children are doing well. “It’s shocking … that anybody survived. But even more shocking is, for the two children who were in safety seats … one of the children wasn’t harmed at all physically.”
Wagstaffe said the boy suffered mental trauma, however, he was not physically harmed in the wreck. His sister suffered one broken bone that has since healed, the district attorney added.
Investigators seized the Tesla Model Y as evidence and towed it to an evidence yard in San Francisco. This type of Telsa is loaded with advanced technology that records the vehicle’s activities on a camera within the vehicle, and an Event Data Recorder that documents information on velocity, speed, acceleration, and brake application. The data will likely be used as evidence against Patel when he stands trial. A traffic camera positioned at the Devil’s Slide tunnel recorded the incident.
Wagstaffe told NewsNation, “If one is having trouble with their tires, one would slowly move to the side of the road. Anybody would. That’s not what occurred here. It didn’t look like what any reasonable person would be doing.”
In February, Patel pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder.
So far, the judge overseeing the case has denied granting bail, and Patel currently remains behind bars, inmate records show. The doctor will return to court on June 12.