The California doctor who is accused of intentionally driving his wife and children off a 250-foot cliff has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Dharmesh Patel, 42, denied charges that he tried to kill his wife and two young children when he drove his Tesla off California’s Devil’s Slide cliff on January 2. Miraculously, all four survived the devastating crash.
But in court on Thursday, his lawyer said a ‘witness’ in the case did not want him prosecuted for his alleged actions, a reporter for NBC Bay Area tweeted from the scene.
Still, a judge in San Mateo Court ruled that Patel can only have limited contact with his family, especially his wife as he remains in custody without bail.
Dharmesh Patel, right, is accused of intentionally trying to kill his wife and two young children when he drove off Devil’s Slide cliff on January 2
Prosecutors say they have video from the Lantos Tunnel showing how he veered off the road
Prosecutors are expected to use traffic camera video from Lantos Tunnel as evidence that Patel, who works as a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Pasadena, intentionally steered his Tesla Model Y off the cliff.
‘There are cameras,’ San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. ‘So we have video showing the movement of the car.
‘After it left the tunnel… went up hill… turned off the road… to go down the cliff.’
State attorneys will also likely bring up witness statements, including those from his wife. She allegedly told paramedics ‘he intentionally tried to kill us’ after they rappelled down the steep cliff to rescue the family.
‘She said very simply this was not an accident. We do believe the evidence establishes the necessary intent to kill,’ Wagstaffe previously told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Patel was arrested after California Highway Patrol investigators ‘developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,’ the agency said.
He was then booked into San Mateo County’s Maguire Correctional Facility in late January.
Patel is pictured in a mugshot after he was booked in the San Mateo County’s Maguire Correctional Facility late last month
Sheriff’s deputies work to free the car after the family was airlifted to safety on January 2
The wreckage of the Tesla is pictured at the bottom of the cliff
The car was traveling northbound on Highway 1 near San Francisco at around 10am on Monday, January 2 when it plummeted off the side of the Devil’s Side cliff
Troopers were dispatched at around 10am on January 2 to reports that a vehicle had veered off the cliff on Highway 1, around 20 miles south of San Francisco. The steep, rocky, winding coastal area is known as Devil’s Slide.
Fire Chief Brian Pottenger told reporters: ‘We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle.’
The car was initially said to have flipped multiple times. However, experts have since raised doubts, arguing the heavy batteries located in the floor of the Tesla would have stopped it from rolling.
There was no guardrail at the spot where the sedan went off the cliff, officials said.
Patel was seen driving at speed northbound on Highway 1 and he is speculated to have performed a sharp turn before reaching the Tom Lantos Tunnel, which is where the Tesla veered off the road, first onto a dirt area and then down the cliff.
Robin Johnson, who called 911 after seeing the crash, recalled: ‘Wow, he’s driving extremely fast to take that exit. You’re not even supposed to be going up that way.
‘And I can see in my rear-view mirror this car just go over the edge and straight down.’
Rescue teams had to abseil down the side of the cliff while others used helicopters to try to reach the family
The huge drop from the highway to the scene of the crash. The family members were airlifted to safety
About 30 to 50 rescuers arrived at the scene, where it was initially assumed that anyone in the car must have been dead.
A helicopter and specialist teams were required to rappel down the cliff to the car. It was not until hours later that rescue teams discovered the four family members conscious and alert in the car.
The children were pulled out first, through a back window, and hauled up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using a pulley.
The doctor and his wife were more seriously injured and had to be hoisted out by helicopter and were then flown directly to the hospital.
Neighbors expressed their shock after learning the allegations against Patel, describing their family as ‘idyllic’.
Roger Newmark, who lives several doors down from the family on a leafy Pasadena street, told CBS: ‘They’re the sweetest couple and they have the greatest two little kids.’
The hospital where Patel works as a radiologist also released a statement after the crash.
‘Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family,’ it said.
‘We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.’
According to an online profile, Patel graduated from the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan and has been practicing for more than a decade.