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Indian-origin doctor who drove Tesla off cliff with family was on 'psychotic break': Report

Patel was driving his white 2021 Tesla Model Y along the Pacific Coast Highway south of San Francisco when the car plunged several hundred feet off the cliff at Devil’s Slide. Firefighters had to cut the family out of the wreckage.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Los Angeles Updated on: April 28, 2024 14:30 IST
Emergency personnel responded to a vehicle over the side of Highway 1 on January 1, 2023, in San Mat
Image Source : AP/@COLLINRUGG/X Emergency personnel responded to a vehicle over the side of Highway 1 on January 1, 2023, in San Mateo County (R)

An Indian-origin radiologist who drove his Tesla off a cliff in the US with his wife and children inside allegedly suffered from major depressive disorder and was experiencing a psychotic break at the time of the incident, according to media reports.

Dharmesh Patel from Pasadena, California was charged in January last year with three counts of attempted murder after he drove the family’s Tesla off the cliff at Devil’s Slide on Highway 1 near Half Moon Bay, according to prosecutors. Patel, his wife, Neha, and their children — a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy at the time — miraculously survived.

Patel would be placed on treatment plan instead of receiving jail time

Patel, 43, was experiencing hallucinations, hearing footsteps and believed his children had been sex trafficked, two doctors testified at a hearing on Wednesday in Redwood City. Wednesday’s hearing was a response to an earlier request from Patel who is seeking a mental health diversion in his case, the New York Post newspaper reported. If a judge grants the doctors' request, Patel would be placed on a two-year treatment plan instead of receiving jail time.

Patel’s charges would be dropped if he doesn’t commit any crimes during the proposed treatment plan. At the time of the crash, the doctors testified, Patel was experiencing a psychotic episode in which he believed that his children might be sex trafficked, Los Angeles Times newspaper quoted District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe as saying.

Doctors -- Mark Patterson and James Armontrout -- testified for the defence. If Patel is placed in the mental diversion program, James Armontrout, a Stanford psychiatric clinician, will oversee the treatment. “I see him as someone who is very motivated and amenable to treatment,” psychologist Mark Patterson testified at the hearing.

Patel is not suffering from a major depressive disorder: Prosecutor

Patterson’s diagnosis of Patel came after a series of 18 tests were conducted and he spoke with the doctor and his siblings. Prosecutors oppose diversion in the case, arguing that the prosecution’s doctor found Patel is not suffering from a major depressive disorder with a psychotic feature, but from a different disorder, known as schizoaffective, and that the defence’s proposed treatment plan will not be effective.

Prosecutors believe the case should remain in court. Wagstaffe worried that if Patel is released he will not be monitored except in his meetings with doctors. “If he goes off his medication, how do you know? It’s not like being on probation or parole. It’s purely the visits with the psychiatrist,” he said.

Patel’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not respond to a request for comment, the report said.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Indian restaurants in Colorado duped massive investors' money on the pretext of bogus expansion plan

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