UPDATED 1/ 4, 8:40 a.m. ET: Authorities are now saying the driver of the white Tesla that went off the side of a California cliff carried out the crash intentionally.
41-year-old Dharmesh Arvind Patel, of Pasadena, has now been reported by KSWB-TV and other outlets to have been arrested in connection with the harrowing crash, which saw all four passengers inside the vehicle (including two minors) surviving the fall. While the driver is currently still in the hospital, he is set to be booked into San Mateo County Jail once he’s released.
In a statement, a California Highway Patrol rep said the decision to arrest the driver was preceded by the gathering of evidence that showed what they said was “probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act.”
Patel was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse in connection with the crash, survival of which had previously been described by local agencies as a “miracle” given the region’s history.
See original story below.
In an initial statement detailing the crash, Battalion Chief Brian Pottenger of the Coastside Fire Protection District and Cal Fire said that the car in question—described as a white Tesla—was traveling southbound on Highway 1 near the infamous Devil’s Slide area in San Mateo County when it went over the side of the cliff.
“When we arrived on scene we knew we had one vehicle over the side,” Pottenger said, as seen in the Twitter-shared clip below. “We could see the vehicle so we immediately put a plan in place to lower rescuers down to the vehicle to get eyes and assess what we had. As we were doing that, we were able to notice movement in the front seat through the windshield with binoculars, so we knew that we had at least one person who was alive.”
Responding agencies were “shocked” upon the realization that there were survivors from the crash, which saw the vehicle in question plunging more than 250 feet after going off the side of the cliff. At the time of this writing, officials were quoted as stating they believed the vehicle, based on observable damage, had flipped multiple times before landing “mostly on its wheels” at the bottom of the drop.
In additional comments featured in a report on the harrowing crash from regional outlet KGO-TV, Pottenger highlighted the frequency with which rescue operations of this nature tend to go in a more dire direction.
“We come out here unfortunately all too often for things like this and this was nothing short of a miracle that they survived,” he said on Monday.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said Monday evening that the two adults in the vehicle suffered “non-life threatening injuries” in the crash, while the two children were not harmed. Per KGO-TV, the minors aboard the vehicle included a four-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy.
The California Highway Patrol, per multiple reports, says its initial inquiry into the crash does not indicate that the Tesla was using its self-driving capabilities at the time of the incident. The investigation into what caused the crash remains in progress.
Complex has reached out to multiple agencies including the California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire, and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office for additional comment. This story may be updated.