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Indian-American doctor who drove Tesla off cliff barred from practicing medicine

New York, June 15 (IANS) An Indian-American doctor, accused of deliberately driving his Tesla off a cliff with his wife and children inside the vehicle, has been barred from practicing medicine by regulators in California, media reports said.

Dharmesh Patel, a 41-year-old radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, was charged with attempted first-degree murder and child abuse in February to which he pleaded not guilty.

The Medical Board of California moved a motion this week in the court to bar Patel from practicing medicine, especially if he were released on bail, The Mercury News reported.

Medical regulators argued in court filings that the move is necessary because Patel represented “an alarming danger to the publica in light of an “impairment of cognitive abilities needed to safely practice medicine”.

In their arguments, regulators cited statements made by Patel’s wife to an emergency worker after she was rescued.

She told him that Patel “did it on purpose”.

“He’s depressed. He’s a doctor. He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He purposely drove off,” Patel’s wife told the rescuer.

“Public protection therefore requires that the defendant be prohibited from practicing medicine throughout the pendency” of his criminal case, the medical board’s motion said.

The request was approved by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Rachel Holt at a hearing on June 12, The Mercury News reported.

Patel’s car was travelling south on State Route 1 on January 2 when it went over a 250-foot cliff at Devil’s Slide, south of the Tom Lantos Tunnels, and flipped and landed on its wheels near the water’s edge.

Firefighters had to cut the vehicle to pull Patel’s two children — a seven-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy — from the vehicle.

Denying that he intentionally drove his car off the cliff, Patel told investigators that the sensor on his Model Y electric car indicated it had low tire pressure as he was driving his wife and two children on the Pacific Coast Highway on January 2 this year.

He further told the investigators that he was trying to stop to check the tires when the vehicle tumbled down the cliff overlooking the ocean, court documents released last month said.

On his mental health, Patel told investigators that he was “not really depressed”, as accused by his wife.

He told them that he “just felt down because times were bad in the world, the war and the drugs”, according to an affidavit in support of his arrest.

When investigators specifically asked if he was suicidal, Patel said “you know, not like a plan, not usually”.

He added that his wife had been “irritated” just before the crash because she didn’t want to stop by his brother’s house in Montara.

He also told officers he was not on any medication or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

According to witnesses, the Tesla didn’t show signs of slowing down before it plummeted off the cliff and the police report also does not indicate a malfunction.

San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in January the Tesla was not in self-driving mode when it plunged into the rocky beachside bluff.

If convicted of murder charges, Patel could be imprisoned for life.

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