Tesla driver who allegedly drove family off cliff pleads not guilty

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A Tesla driver who is accused of intentionally driving his family off a cliff in San Mateo County pleaded not guilty in court Thursday. 

Dharmesh Patel, 41, of Pasadena, is charged with three counts of attempted murder and domestic violence. The victims in the case are Patel’s 7-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son, and his wife. 

On January 2, Patel was driving his family in a Tesla Model Y along Highway 1 when he allegedly drove off a cliff with the intent to murder his whole family. The family fell more than 250 feet down until their Tesla crashed onto a rocky beach. 

A judge ordered Patel to remain in custody with no bail on Thursday afternoon and issued a no-contact order, prohibiting Patel to contact his three family members. 

Patel’s wife and children survived the crash and were rescued by a California Highway Patrol helicopter. According to reports, when paramedics reached the family, Patel’s wife was screaming that her husband tried to kill them all. 

“She did make a statement,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe confirmed to the press. “She said very simply this was not an accident.”

The Tesla was crushed on all sides, but, “by some miracle that I don’t understand, all of them have survived,” Wagstaffe said.

Traffic cameras positioned on top of the cliff next to a tunnel recorded Patel turning toward the cliff, prosecutors said.

“We don’t know the motive, that is the big question right now. But we will continue to look into that, why he would do this,” Wagstaffe said.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 20.


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.