LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A sports utility vehicle that hurtled off a roadside cliff along the Northern California coastline earlier this week was likely carrying all eight members of a Washington state family, police said on Wednesday.
The bodies of a married couple, Jennifer Jean Hart, 38, and Sarah Margaret Hart, 38, were recovered from inside the wreckage of a GMC Yukon after it was spotted by another driver on Monday afternoon at the bottom of a seaside embankment in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco.
Three of their six children, all in their teens, were found deceased outside the car, which had come to rest upside down at the edge of the surf.
At the time of the recovery operation law enforcement officials said that the remaining three children were considered missing, after a search by sea and air failed to turn up their bodies, and that it was possible they had not been in the vehicle.
But on Wednesday Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said that all six children were believed to have been in the Yukon when it plunged over the cliff.
“We have every indication to believe that all six children were in there. However, only three bodies have been recovered,” Allman said.
He did not say whether the three missing children could have survived the crash.
California Highway Patrol crash investigators were trying to determine what caused the car to veer off the road in good weather, Allman said, and coroner’s investigators were conducting autopsies on the remains that had been recovered.
The sheriff said the crash scene was unusual because the Yukon had traveled some 75 feet (23 meters )along a dirt pullout before plummeting off the cliff and no skid marks or brake marks were found.
He asked that anyone who had contact with the family in the days before the incident contact law enforcement.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Sandra Maler