MENDOCINO, Calif. (AP) — An SUV carrying a large, free-spirited family from Washington state accelerated straight off a scenic California cliff and authorities said the deadly wreck may have been intentional.

Information pulled from the vehicle’s software shows it was stopped at a flat, dirt pull-off area before it sped off the steep rocky face and plunged 100 feet, said Capt. Greg Baarts with the California Highway Patrol Northern Division. Speaking at an evening news conference Sunday night, Baarts said the electronic information combined with the lack of skid marks or signs the driver braked led authorities to believe the crash was purposeful.

Five members of the Hart family were found dead. The search continued for three more children believed to have been in the vehicle when it went over a coastal overlook and landed on rocks in the Pacific Ocean below. The missing children may have been washed out to sea, authorities say.

“This specific location is very difficult to search because the ocean currents and tides are strong, it’s unpredictable, and the murkiness of the water makes it difficult to see,” said Capt. Greg Van Patten, a spokesman for the Mendocino County Sheriff ’s Office.

Known as the Hart Tribe, the family of two married women — Sarah and Jennifer Hart — and six adopted children often took spontaneous road trips to camp and hike and traveled to festivals and other events, offering hugs and promoting unity.



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