NEW YORK – A sports utility vehicle carrying a large, multiracial family from Washington state drove straight off a scenic cliff on the California coast last week, killing at least six people in what appears to have been an intentional wreck, police said.
The wrecked GMC Yukon was discovered March 26, only three days after child welfare authorities in Washington state opened an investigation into allegations the children were being neglected, social and health authorities said.
The SUV appears to have been stopped by the side of the road in Mendocino County, about 180 miles (290 km) north of San Francisco, before accelerating to as fast as 90 mph (145 kph) and hurtling off a cliff, acting Assistant CHP Chief Greg Baarts told a reporters on Sunday.
Data from the SUV’s software, along with the absence of skid marks, suggested the event was not an accident, Baarts said.
He said that it was “pure acceleration all the way.”
The SUV fell into rocks and water about 100 feet (30 meters) below the highway.
A married Washington state couple, Jennifer Hart, 38, and Sarah Hart, 38, were killed. So were at least three of their six adopted children, police said.
The bodies of three of the children were not recovered as of early Monday, but officials said they believed all the children were in the vehicle, along with their parents.
Officials searched the family’s Woodland, Washington, home, but found no suicide note, media reported.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said it was investigating the family for potential child neglect or abuse.
A spokeswoman said the department attempted to make contact with the family on March 23, but their was noone at their home in Woodland, Washington, about 27 miles (43 km) north of Portland, Oregon. Child welfare authorities failed to contact the family on two subsequent visits in March.
“We had no prior history with the family,” said spokeswoman Norah West.