Sarah and Jennifer Hart and their six adopted children were believed to be in the family's SUV when it plunged off a cliff in Mendocino County, more than 160 miles north of San Francisco.
Greg Baarts, acting assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol's northern division, said preliminary data from the SUV's air bag module suggested that the vehicle probably came to a stop at a gravel pullout roughly 70 feet from the cliff before it accelerated and "went straight off the edge".
Yesterday, authorities revealed Jennifer Hart, who was driving the SUV, "had a blood alcohol level of.102 at the time of the crash, California Highway Patrol Capt. Bruce Carpenter said at a press conference Friday".
Wife Sarah Hart and two of the dead children had "an ingredient that's commonly found in [the over-the-counter allergy medication] Benadryl", in their systems when they perished, but it's not clear what authorities are making of that finding, the captain added.
Searchers also found items described as consistent with a family traveling on vacation and unspecified personal items that allowed officials to confirm that the vehicle seen plunging into the river was the Thottapilly's SUV. Mendocino County Search and Rescue divers are preparing to be deployed to the area of the crash site once ocean conditions improve.
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Police have said a search of the family's home in Woodland, Washington, turned up no suicide note.
Carpenter said none of the car's occupants were wearing seatbelts. Devonte Hart had made headlines years before the crash when a picture of him hugging a police officer during police-brutality protests went viral. The crash happened just days after authorities in Washington state opened an investigation following allegations the children were being neglected.
The family, Sandeep Thottapilly, his wife Soumya, 38, and the couple's two children, 12-year-old Siddhant and his 9-year-old sister Saachi, began a trip to Portland, Oregon from their Valencia home on March 30. Three other children, Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, also 15, are missing.
After Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault, she and Jen pulled their children from schools in Minnesota, in favor of homeschooling.