PALO ALTO -- Santa Clara County prosecutors charged a San Bruno father on Thursday with vehicular manslaughter after he nodded off while driving home from an all-night shopping trip, killing his two daughters in a crash on Highway 101.
Despite the tragic loss of his two children, Arvind Tandel, 48, broke too many rules and put too many other lives at risk for there to be no legal consequences, said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson.
With just a few hours sleep, Tandel got behind the wheel of his Lexus SUV early Nov. 23 and overlooked the fact his four children were sitting in a row of seats with safety belts for only three, she said.
The result was a crash on Highway 101 around 6:50 a.m. in Palo Alto that killed daughters Sheetal Tandel, 21 and Nisha Tandel, 24, whose January wedding in India prompted the family shopping trip to Gilroy.
The Tandels' SUV flipped after hitting a CHP cruiser that was stopped on the side of the freeway. The officer was talking to the driver of a pick-up truck, who had a flat tire and was stuck on the roadside, when the SUV struck at about 65 mph, the CHP said.
Tandel was not arrested and is due in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Sept. 16. The charges come after CHP investigators recommended Tandel face involuntary manslaughter for his daughters' deaths because he was sleep deprived but drove anyway.
The father, his wife, and two other daughters, then 12 and 22, survived the rollover crash near the Oregon Expressway exit.
The California Highway Patrol officer was also seriously injured in the crash and only returned to duty last month, Hendrickson said. She didn't have details on his injuries.
Defense attorney Daniel Barton said his client made everyday errors and has already paid a high price.
"I don't think it's necessary to file criminal charges against someone who makes a mundane mistake that causes the loss of his closest loved ones," Barton said. "The shame and the guilt are neverending for Arvind Tandel."
But Hendrickson said Tandel's behavior was something many other people had done without consequence, but there was a difference here.
"It's because what he did is not OK. What he did was not evil," she said. "But it was conduct that led to a tragedy and could have lead to an even worse tragedy, and we simply cannot ignore that."
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.