Skip to main content

Tesla crash on Highway 1 may have been an ‘intentional act,’ driver arrested

Rescue teams are seen at the scene as a Tesla with four occupants plunged over a cliff on Pacific Coast Highway 1 at Devils Slide on January 2, 2022 in San Mateo County, California, United States. | Getty Images

All four passengers survived a 250-foot plunge off the Pacific Coast Highway on Monday morning when their Tesla fell off the roadway near Devil’s Slide. The subsequent rescue operation, spurred by witnesses who called 911, required several ambulances and a helicopter.

Incredibly, the two adults in the car only suffered non-life-threatening injuries, while two children, ages 7 and 14, were unharmed—but the California Highway Patrol (CHP) believes the incident on Highway 1 may have been an intentional act. Driver Dharmesh A. Patel, 41, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of attempted murder and child abuse, but not yet formally charged. 

Although the San Mateo Sheriff's Office was involved in the rescue, CHP is leading the investigation. 

In a statement emailed to The Standard, CHP stated investigators worked through the night Monday to determine probable cause that the episode was an “intentional act.” Patel is being treated for his injuries and officers will book him into San Mateo County Jail upon his release from the hospital.

As first reported by The New York Times, authorities did not release any further information about what led them to charge Patel. It was also unclear what his relationship to the other passengers was, or whether the car was in self-driving mode.

The incident recalls a March 2018 SUV crash in Mendocino, in which a murder-suicide pact led to the deaths of a family of eight.

UPDATE, Jan. 3, 6:56 p.m.: This story has been updated with a comment from the California Highway Patrol.

Astrid Kane can be reached at