The vehicle's software indicated the Hart family's 2003 GMC Yukon stopped at a scenic pull-over area, then roared at speeds of up to 90 mph before plunging more than 100 feet into the Pacific Ocean, according to Greg Baarts, acting assistant chief for the California Highway Patrol's Northern Division.
A spectacular SUV crash off a scenic Northern California cliff that killed at least five members of a Washington state family that was under investigation for child abuse may have been deliberate, police say.
Baarts cautioned that the findings were not conclusive and that a full investigation was underway. Authorities were not certain when the wreck took place; the vehicle was discovered by a motorist a week ago.
The crash killed married couple Jennifer and Sara Hart, both 38, and at least three of their six adopted children — Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14. The other three children are missing, and Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said it's likely that they, too, were in the SUV and their bodies may have washed out to sea.
Dana KeKalb, a neighbor of the family in Woodland, Wash., said she called state Child Protective Services two weeks ago after Devonte said his parents were "punishing" the kids by withholding food. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said CPS opened an investigation into the Hart family March 23.
Baarts said authorities have been interviewing friends and family members of the Harts.
CPS officials tried to contact the family on March 23, 26 and 27, according to spokeswoman Norah West. She said they had no prior history with the family before March 23 and have not made any findings in the investigation.
“There have been red flags,” he said, adding “To the best of my knowledge, there was not a suicide note found at the residence."
Contributing: KGW-TV in Portland, Ore.; The Associated Press