The Woodland woman who was behind the wheel when her family crashed off a cliff on the California coastline was caught on camera at a grocery store the day before the deadly crash.
The California Highway Patrol released a surveillance image of Jennifer Jean Hart at a Safeway store in Fort Bragg, California from the morning of March 25.
Deputies said the following day, Hart drove a 2003 GMC Yukon LX off a cliff near Highway 1 in the Westport area of Mendocino County.
Hart, along with Sarah Margaret Hart and at least three of their adopted children – ages 14 to 19 years old – were killed in the crash.
Their other three adopted children were initially thought to be in the car, as well, according to deputies, but they have not been found.
On Tuesday, investigators provided an update on the case and said it is unclear if the three missing children – ages 12 to 16 years old – were inside the car at the time of the crash.
A large-scale search and rescue operation with more than 70 people is scheduled to begin near the crash scene Wednesday morning during low tide conditions.
The search area will focus from Noyo Harbor to MacKerricher State Park based upon ocean current and drift pattern analysis conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard. A further search will be conducted focusing south of the crash site. The search operation is expected to include aircraft, boats and land crews from numerous agencies.
Tuesday night, FOX 12 spoke with the U.S. Coast Guard stationed out of Portland, who said they have a computer system that helps with these kinds of search and rescues.
They said it looks at local weather conditions, drift directions, how long someone might have been in the water and where they could be now. They also said from their experience, Wednesday’s search could be a long one.
“I think mostly the time that these people may have been in the water, so the longer time that they've been in, the larger search area they're going to have to cover,” said Andrew Brewster, who is with the U.S. Coast Guard in Portland.
Investigators said it is now believed the Hart family was in or around Newport, Oregon at 8:15 a.m. March 24. It is believed they continued south along Highway 101 until they reached Highway 1 in Leggett, California.
They then traveled south on Highway 1 to the Fort Bragg area, where they remained until around 9 p.m. March 25.
Investigators said they have no additional information about where the family was immediately before the deadly crash on March 26.
Anyone with information about the Hart family’s route of travel, places they stopped or anyone they contacted is asked to contact California Highway Patrol at 707-467-4000 or the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at 707-463-4086.
California Highway Patrol previously reported that evidence in this case points to the crash being an intentional act.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services opened a Child Protective Services investigation of the family on March 23, as the agency reported the children were identified as potential victims of abuse or neglect.
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