Deputies ID family from Woodland killed in California crash; thr - KPTV - FOX 12

Deputies ID family from Woodland killed in California crash; three children missing

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Hart family photo from family friend Melissa Rogers. (KPTV) Hart family photo from family friend Melissa Rogers. (KPTV)
Photo: California Highway Patrol Photo: California Highway Patrol

Deputies have identified two women and their three adopted children from the Pacific Northwest who were killed in a crash along the California coastline, as crews continue searching for three more children.

Emergency crews responded to Highway 1 in the Westport area of Mendocino County at 4:16 p.m. Monday.

Investigators said Jennifer Jean Hart, 38, of Woodland, Washington, drove a 2003 GMC into a large dirt turnout and then drove off a large cliff.

A witness saw the car off the embankment and upside down on the rocky shoreline.

Deputies said Hart was killed, along with 38-year-old passenger Sarah Margaret Hart. Investigators said they were married and previously lived in West Linn.

Three of their adopted children were thrown from the car and died in the crash. They were identified Wednesday as Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14.

Investigators learned the couple had six adopted children, and three of them have not been found.  

Those children were identified Wednesday as Devonte Hart, 15; Hannah Hart, 16; and Sierra Hart, 12.

Deputies said they all lived in Woodland. Investigators learned they may have moved out of Oregon due to media coverage of a situation involving Devonte.

The boy drew nationwide attention in 2014 after he was photographed hugging a Portland Police Bureau sergeant during a demonstration in downtown Portland related to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Clark County deputies went to the family’s Woodland home after the crash and said it appeared they may have left for a temporary trip, as there were many belongings still in the home, along with a pet and some chickens.

Deputies also recently visited the couple's Woodland home on a Child Protective Services referral for a welfare check on the children, according to a Clark County Sheriff's Office spokesman. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services released a statement Wednesday evening. 

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services opened a Child Protective Services investigation on March 23, 2018 in which the now-deceased children were identified as potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect. We attempted to make contact with the family on three occasions (3/23, 3/26 and 3/27) and were not able to reach them. We have not made any findings in this investigation and we had no prior history with this family. We are working with all involved law enforcement agencies on their respective investigations.

The Mendocino County sheriff reported Wednesday that while three of the children have not been found, they were believed to have been in the car at the time of the crash. 

Crews in California have combed the coastline near the crash scene as part of the search efforts. However, ocean conditions have not allowed for divers to assist, but a dive team is on standby if conditions approve.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

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