MONTARA, Calif. (AP) — The driver of a Tesla in northern California that plunged off a cliff, seriously injuring two children and another adult, intentionally caused the accident and is facing charges of attempted murder and child abuse. The suspect was arrested, the California Highway Patrol said Tuesday.
The Highway Patrol said in a statement that Dharmesh A. Patel will be held at the San Mateo County Jail after his release from the hospital. It was not immediately known whether Patel had a lawyer.
“CHP investigators interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence from the scene throughout the night,” the Highway Patrol statement said. “Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act.”
Authorities said Patel, another adult, a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy survived when their car plunged off an infamous cliff near Pacific Coast Highway in an area called Devil’s Slide, which is full of deadly debris. Known for. It was not immediately clear whether the four were members of the same family.
The Tesla sedan plunged more than 250 feet (76 m) off the highway and crashed into a rocky cliff. Coastside Fire Protection District/Cal Fire’s battalion chief Brian Potanger said Monday that it appeared to have flipped a few times before landing on its wheels, hitting a rock a few feet from the surf.
Accidents along Devil’s Slide, a steep, rocky and windy coastal area about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of San Francisco between Pacifica and Montara, rarely end with survivors. On Monday, the victims were initially listed in critical condition, but all four were conscious and alert when rescuers arrived.
“We go over the cliff to cars all the time and they never stay. It was an absolute miracle,” Potanger said Monday.
Officials said there was no railing at the place where the palanquin fell from the cliff.
The battalion chief said witnesses called 911 around 10:15 a.m. Monday and crews installed a rope system from the highway to take firefighters down the cliff. At the same time, other firefighters watching the sedan through binoculars saw sudden movement—a sign that at least one person was still alive.
The incident took a turn for the worse with a rescue operation lasting several hours amid incessant rain, strong winds, slippery roads and crashing waves before the bodies were recovered. The doors were hit by rock and jammed, so firefighters were forced to pull the victims out of the car using the so-called “jaws of life” equipment.
The crew pulled the children out the rear window and brought them to the cliff by hand in rescue baskets using a rope system. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital with musculoskeletal injuries.
However, the adults suffered traumatic injuries, and had to be hoisted over the cliff by a helicopter. The battalion chief said that after this both were taken to the hospital.
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