Family of 4 still hospitalized after father drove off cliff

MONTARA, Calif. (AP) — The driver of a car that plunged off a treacherous cliff in Northern California, injuring his two young children and his wife after the 250-foot drop, remained hospitalized with serious injuries Wednesday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Dharmesh A. Patel of Pasadena will be booked into the San Mateo County jail on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse after he’s released from a hospital, the highway patrol said. He was in serious but stable condition and has not yet been cleared by doctors to leave.

Rescuers initially hailed the family’s survival as a “miracle” after the Tesla sedan plummeted down a notorious cliffside Monday along the Pacific Coast Highway near an area called Devil’s Slide that’s known for fatal wrecks.

Firefighters were forced to cut the family out of the wreckage. They used a rope system to haul the children up the cliff in a rescue basket while the parents were hoisted by helicopter.

Patel’s family — including his 41-year-old wife, 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, whose names have not been released — also remained hospitalized Wednesday. CHP Officer Mark Andrews would not comment on their conditions or detail Patel’s wounds.

It wasn’t immediately known if Patel, 41, has an attorney. Pasadena police records do not show any calls about violence at the family’s home. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services said that state law prohibits the agency from commenting on their possible involvement with families.

The case brought back memories of a 2018 tragedy when a woman intentionally drove off another Northern California cliff i n an SUV with her wife and their six adopted children. All were killed. The crash in Mendocino County happened just days after authorities in Washington state opened an investigation following allegations that Jennifer Hart’s children were being neglected.

Investigators are looking into Patel’s motive and Andrews would not say whether detectives have been able to interview him.

“I have no idea what his thought pattern was,” he said.

Investigators do not have to present the case to prosecutors until after Patel is booked into jail.

“They are not under the gun because the suspect Patel remains hospitalized and thus they can investigate the case more thoroughly,” San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a statement.

Patel is a doctor in radiology at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles.

“Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family,” the statement said. “We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.”

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Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed from New York.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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