In this March 28, 2018, aerial image from Alameda County, Calif., Sheriff’s Office drone video courtesy of Mendocino County, Calif., shows the pullout where the SUV of Jennifer and Sarah Hart was recovered off Pacific Coast Highway 1, near Westport, Calif.
Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (AP Images)

It‚Äôs been about a week since an SUV‚ÄĒbelieved to be carrying all eight members of a Washington state family‚ÄĒplummeted over a cliff in Mendocino County, Calif., and authorities are now apparently close to getting at least some answers about what happened to Devonte Hart and his family. It is now believed that the fatal incident was intentional.

During a conference call with reporters, a spokesperson with the California Highway Patrol confirmed that the vehicle’s onboard computer showed that the family’s SUV stopped before accelerating over the cliff, dropping about 70 feet.

Advertisement

‚ÄúPure acceleration all the way,‚ÄĚ the spokesperson said, according to NBC News.

Cal Robertson, a spokesman for the CHP, noted that the speedometer showed a reading of about 90 mph at the time of the crash, but he hedged, saying that the instrument could have been moved during impact or could have accidentally been manipulated during the investigation.

‚ÄúCertainly, that does not mean the vehicle was going that fast,‚ÄĚ Robertson said Sunday night.

Advertisement

The California Highway Patrol and the Mendocino County Sheriff‚Äôs Office are still investigating the crash that killed Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, and three of their children, Markis, 19; Jeremiah, 14; and Abigail, 14. Three more of their children, including Devonte Hart‚ÄĒwhose image went viral after a photo was snapped of him hugging a cop during protests over Michael Brown‚Äôs Ferguson, Mo., police-shooting death‚ÄĒare still missing, feared dead.

Although authorities have found no suicide note, the absence of skid marks at the scene, plus data from airbag controllers and other information, has led them to believe that the plunge over the cliff was intentional. It is not clear who was driving the vehicle before it went over the cliff.

Advertisement

‚ÄúThree children are still missing and could be in the ocean,‚ÄĚ Assistant CHP Chief Greg Baarts said. ‚ÄúWe are trying to determine a timeline, path of travel, and if there were any stops.‚ÄĚ

Baarts told NBC that authorities in California were ‚Äútirelessly searching for the missing children along the coastline,‚ÄĚ including Hart children Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12, Devante‚Äôs sisters, while authorities in both California and Washington state were ‚Äúconducting interviews and attempting to establish a timeline and routes of travel in an effort to rule out any other possibilities.‚ÄĚ

As authorities investigate the crash, more and more terrifying details have come to light. Child-protective services had visited the family’s home in Woodland, Wash., at least three times before the crash March 26.

Advertisement

Court records show that in 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Douglas County, Minn., a plea that led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child. She claimed that she ‚Äúlet her anger get out of control‚ÄĚ while spanking her then 6-year-old daughter.

More recently, Devonte had told his neighbor that his parents were ‚Äúpunishing them by withholding food,‚ÄĚ apparently even asking her to leave food in a box by the fence for him.

Advertisement

The state‚Äôs Department of Social and Health Services said in a statement that the children killed in the accident would be identified as ‚Äúpotential victims of alleged abuse or neglect.‚ÄĚ

Authorities in the meantime obtained a search warrant to retrieve computers, credit cards, bank statements and other items in order to try to determine a probable cause in what Baarts says may have been a felony.