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Driver pleads not guilty to attempted murder in cliff plunge

California Car Off Cliff
Posted at 7:18 AM, Feb 10, 2023

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — The man accused of trying to kill his wife and two young children by driving off a Northern California cliff pleaded not guilty on Thursday to attempted murder and domestic violence.

A judge ordered Dharmesh Patel, 41, of Pasadena, held without bail.

Patel was seriously injured on Jan. 2 when the car plunged 250 feet (76 meters) off the cliff at Devil's Slide along the Pacific Coast Highway south of San Francisco.

Firefighters were forced to cut the family — including Patel’s 41-year-old wife, and 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, whose names have not been released — out of the wreckage. Both children were hospitalized with serious injuries. Patel also faces enhancements for great bodily injury, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a statement.

“We do believe the evidence establishes the necessary intent to kill,” Wagstaffe told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The area in San Mateo County is known for fatal wrecks, and rescuers initially hailed the family’s survival as a miracle. However, Patel was later arrested after California Highway Patrol investigators “developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the agency said.

Authorities haven't disclosed a possible motive for the crash.

At Thursday's hearing, a judge barred Patel from contacting his wife and children.

He is charged with three counts of attempted murder and domestic violence. He could face life in prison if convicted.

In the months before the crash, Patel was working as a doctor at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills neighborhood north of Los Angeles.