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BREAKING: ‘Unknown’ if Devonte Hart and sisters went on family trip before fatal plunge; police did not know about missing children until day after SUV was found

The California Highway Patrol released a lengthy statement on Tuesday with the latest information about the SUV plunge that killed five members of the Hart family.

The press release confirms the deaths of the five victims found at the crash site: Jennifer Jean Hart, 38; Sarah Margaret Hart, 38; and their adopted children Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14.

Devonte Hart, 15; Sierra Hart, 12; and Hannah Hart; 16, are all still missing. The family was living in Washington state at the time of the crash.

“At this time it is unknown if the missing children accompanied their parents on the trip to Mendocino County or if they might be staying with friends,” the CHP wrote in the release.

CHP Captain Gregory L. Van Patten confirmed the timeline of events: At 3:38 p.m. on Monday, a witness reported seeing a flipped-over SUV at the bottom of a cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway in Westport, California. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene, and first responders conducted rescue efforts late until the night.

But it appears that authorities did not know there were three more children in the Hart family until the next day.

“On 3/27/2018 around 0800 hours the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the identity of the two adult females as Jennifer and Sarah Hart, a married couple who had previously resided in West Linn Oregon,” Patten wrote in the release.  “It was later learned the decedent’s had 6 adopted children.”

“After learning of three additional children who were unaccounted for, the Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the United States Coast Guard out of Fort Bragg CA immediately initiated a second search and rescue effort in the Ocean waters where the accident occurred.  The California Highway patrol launched a fixed wing airplane and a helicopter, the Coast Guard launched a rescue boat in the area, while the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to search the beach areas along the Highway. “

The release reiterates earlier statements from the California Highway Patrol in recent days indicating a possibility that the three missing Hart children were not in the car when it went over the cliff.

“At this time it is unknown if the missing children accompanied their parents on the trip to Mendocino County or if they might be staying with friends,” Patten wrote.

Search and rescue efforts are continuing, though the water search is being conducted via drones, as “ocean conditions have not allowed the use of rescue/recovery divers in the search efforts.”

The cause of the crash is still under investigation, and authorities have not yet named any suspects, though CHP Acting Assistant Chief Greg Baart previously stated that the car appears to have been driven off the cliff intentionally. 

 

[Feature image: The Hart Family/Mendocino County Sheriff]