The shocking survival of a California doctor and his family after he drove them off a 250ft cliff is “sheer luck,” experts said.
Dr. Dharmesh A. Patel, 41, plunged the family’s car off the side of a cliff along with his wife Neha, 41, their four-year-old son, and their seven-year-old daughter.
Speaking to NBC News, mechanical engineering professor Jingwen Yu said conceded the family’s survival was a “kind of miracle, considering the impact severity.” Still, he noted the weight of the Tesla Patel was driving was a contributing factor.
The professor stated that the quality of Tesla’s seatbelts, the hard roof, and the fact that the car batteries’ weight gives it a low center of gravity stopped it from flipping.
A professor of mechanical engineering at California State University Sacramento, Jose Granada, said that the car had to have made a straight drop, landing primarily on pebbles and sand. Granada compared the landing to that of a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese, although the fall at its top speed would have been around 80 mph.
Since the horrifying incident, details have emerged about the family. It was reported due to burglary alarms and reports of suspicious people in the vicinity.
The calls were labeled by police as false alarms or canceled, according to records obtained by the LA Times.
Besides the questionable incidents in 2017, the Patels appeared to be a picturesque family. A video clip from a Ring camera, obtained by the LA Times, shows Patel delivering poinsettias to his neighbors on Christmas Eve.
One of the family’s neighbors, Sarah Walker, told LA Times, “He’s just so present. Dharmesh and I would wave ‘Hi,’ but he would always come over and have a conversation. He was always happy and ready to talk.”
Patel drove off the notorious cliffside along the Pacific Coast Highway by an area known for its fatal wrecks called the Devil’s Slide.
Firefighters had to cut the family out of the wreckage and then used a rope system to lift the children up the cliff in a rescue basket while Patel and his wife were airlifted by helicopter.
On Tuesday, police charged Patel with attempted homicide and child abuse. Investigators are looking into Patel’s motive. No further information has been released from either Patel or his wife.
Patel works as a doctor in radiology at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles.
The hospital gave a statement saying, “Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is deeply saddened to learn of a traffic incident involving one of our physicians and his family. We are extremely grateful there were no serious injuries. We will not respond further, as this incident is under investigation.”