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Indian Man Accused of Driving Tesla Off of California Cliff With His Family Inside Was Hallucinating During Incident 

Indian Man Accused of Driving Tesla Off of California Cliff With His Family Inside Was Hallucinating During Incident 

  • 42-year-old radiologist Dharmesh Patel experienced a psychotic episode, and feared his two kids would be sex trafficked.

Indian American radiologist Dharmesh Patel, who allegedly drove his Tesla over a California cliff with his family inside the vehicle was grappling with major depressive disorder during the incident. According to testimony by two doctors, the 42-year-old Indian American experienced a psychotic episode, and feared his two kids would be sex trafficked. 

The 42-year-old Indian American is accused of driving his family off a cliff on Jan. 2, 2023, near Devil’s Slide along Highway 1, sending the car plunging 250 feet onto a rocky beach. He suffered injuries to his leg and foot, and his wife suffered more severe injuries. While their 4-year-old child escaped with only bruises, their 7-year-old child was more seriously injured. He remains in Redwood City jail, pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder.

At a hearing last week in Redwood City, Dr. Mark Patterson said Patel was concerned that his children were at risk of being kidnapped, possibly for sexual molestation. “There were concerns surrounding the explosion of fentanyl in this country and the war in Ukraine,” Patterson said, according to Los Angeles Times. He told the court that he believes Patel is “qualified for treatment under the mental health diversion law. “I see him as someone who is very motivated and amenable to treatment,” the LA Times report said. 

Similarly, defense’s second witness Dr. James Armontrout diagnosed Patel with a “major depressive disorder with psychotic features that is currently in remission,” according to The Daily Mail. He also said Patel “met the requirements for a mental health diversion, which he and his legal team applied in July last year.” The Daily Mail notes that “the diversion is part of a new statewide program in California that is focused on preventing defendants with mental illness from being incarcerate.” 

Patel’s case will be back in court on May 2. 

Last June, almost six months after the incident, Patel was banned from practicing medicine, because of the “impairment of cognitive abilities needed to safely practice medicine,” the Mercury News reported at the time. In a statement issued to the publication, the medical board said Patel could not practice “under any circumstances” with the case still open. 

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Last year, his wife, Neha, told investigators after the crash that her husband was depressed, and intentionally plunged the car with her and their children. She told the police and rescue workers at least three times that her husband deliberately drove the car off the cliff. All four of them, however, miraculously survived the crash even as their car was badly mauled after rolling over several times. 

According to a report an NBC news report, Neha also told a California Highway Patrol officer: “He drove off. He’s depressed. He’s a doctor. He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He drove off on purpose.”

The arrest warrant affidavit said two witnesses reported the Tesla “accelerated” as it traveled toward the cliffside, and there was no evidence that the driver tried to brake before he plummeted off the cliff.A nearby security camera which captured the moment the Tesla drove off the cliffside, showed the car taking a gradual right turn, plunging off the cliffside. There is no indication of attempts to brake or to turn the Tesla in a different direction,” according to the filing. The unsealed documents also revealed what Dr. Patel said about the crash. “He claimed he had pulled over to check his tire pressure, which the Tesla indicated was low earlier that morning,” the affidavit said.

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