Driver in California Plunge That Killed Family Was Drunk, Officials Say

Posted April 14, 2018

The body of a woman was found Friday in a Northern California river in which a Valencia family disappeared when their SUV tumbled into the water amid a driving rainstorm.

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Water levels at the time the accident were too high and conditions too unsafe for a thorough search.

Toxicology tests also found that her wife, Sarah - and two of their adopted children had "a significant amount" of an ingredient commonly found in the allergy drug benadryl.

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Investigators initially said they discovered the body of a child, but later said a woman's body was found.

Authorities in Northern California have previously said they believe all six children from the family were in a vehicle that plunged off a cliff. Toxicology results on a third child whose body was recovered from the crash area are still pending. Devonte Hart had made headlines years before the crash when a picture of him hugging a police officer during police-brutality protests went viral.

No one in the vehicle, a GMC Yukon, was wearing a seatbelt, Captain Carpenter said on Friday. Authorities believe Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12, may have been in the vehicle and were swept out to sea. The crash happened just days after authorities in Washington state opened an investigation following allegations the children were being neglected.

A vehicle owned by the couple-Sarah and Jennifer Hart, both 38 - was found at the bottom of a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean in California's Mendocino County on March 26.

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Carpenter said the family stopped in the small town of Naselle, Washington, near their Woodland, Washington, home, during their drive to the California cliff but that investigators are still trying to determine why they stopped there and whether they contacted anyone. The bodies of three of their children - Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14 - were found nearby.

He said examiners also found traces of an over-the-counter antihistamine that can cause drowsiness in the systems of the wife and two children.

Last August, soon after the Harts moved into their rural home, neighbors Bruce and Dana DeKalb said a child rang their doorbell, seeking sanctuary from abuse.

A family of four taking a West Coast road trip vanished about 30 miles from the site of the Hart family crash, authorities said this week.

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