New details emerge on Tesla cliff plunge that led driver to be charged with attempted murder
- Dharmesh Patel is facing three attempted murder charges after driving a Tesla off a 250-foot cliff.
- Prosecutors said witnesses didn't see the Tesla's brake lights go on before the incident, SF Chronicle reports.
Dharmesh Patel, the Tesla driver whose car plunged off a 250-foot cliff with his wife and kids inside, has been charged with three counts of attempted murder, court records show.
San Mateo County district attorney Steve Wagstaffe said during Patel's arraignment on Monday that his office was charging the driver with attempted murder after reviewing videos from the incident, as well as statements from Patel's wife and witnesses at the scene, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The district attorney said Patel's wife made "incriminating" statements about her husband and witnesses at the scene did not see brake lights before the car plunged off the cliff, the Chronicle reported. The prosecutors have also enhanced the charges with allegations of domestic violence, as well as causing "great bodily injury," according to court records.
"We do believe the evidence establishes the necessary intent to kill," Wagstaffe said at the arraignment, per the San Francisco Chronicle.
During Patel's arraignment, he was behind a pane of glass that was not visible to the court room and only communicated with his attorney, Joshua Bentley, the news outlet said. His attorney requested a delay for the next court meeting till February 9, which was granted by the judge, court records show.
The attorney told the judge he's "not certain" Patel will be able to make it to a microphone due to "serious lower body injuries," per the San Francisco Chronicle's report. The attorney said he was released from the hospital and moved to jail without bail on Friday and Waggstaffe said his wife was still in the hospital, per the San Francisco Chronicle. The judge had granted the request for no bail due to the "potential danger to family members," the publication said.
Earlier this month, Patel, his two children, and wife survived a 250-foot dive off a cliff known as Devil's Slide. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said in a tweet on January 2 that the children were "unharmed" at the time of rescue. NBC reported that the adults were taken to the hospital in critical condition upon recovery, but were later found to have sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
At the time of the incident, the family's survival was hailed as "nothing short of a miracle." But, California Highway Patrol later said that "Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act."
Wagstaffe said investigators are looking to rule out any issues with the car that could have caused the accident, but have yet to find any issues, The Los Angeles Times reported. The authorities had previously said that Tesla's driver assist features, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving do "not appear to be a contributing factor in this incident."
Insider was unable to contact Patel for comment ahead of publication, and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication. The district attorney's office at San Mateo Court and a spokesperson for Tesla also did not respond to a request for comment.
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