Death plunge vehicle's speedometer 'pinned' at 90 mph, authorities say


The speedometer of a Washington state family’s SUV was “pinned” at 90 mph when the vehicle was found Monday afternoon, crushed along the rocks of a Northern California shoreline, court documents say.

Authorities included the information in an affidavit for a search warrant for the home of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, adoptive parents of six children — all of whom are believed to have perished when the vehicle plunged off the Pacific Coast Highway, Fox 12 Oregon reported.

The two women and three of the children were found dead at the crash site Monday, but it was unclear how much time had elapsed between the accident and the discovery.

Three other children are missing and may have been carried out to sea, authorities have said.

The family had been living in Oregon until last year when they moved to Woodland, Wash.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officers believe “a felony has been committed” in the case, the court documents say.

This photo provided by the California Highway Patrol shows a helicopter hovering over steep coastal cliffs Tuesday, March 27, 2018, near Mendocino, Calif., where a vehicle, visible at lower right, plunged about 100 feet off a cliff along Highway 1, killing all five passengers. The California Highway Patrol identified the victims Tuesday as two women from West Linn, Ore., and three children. (California Highway Patrol via AP)

A helicopter hovers over the Northern California site where the Hart family’s SUV was discovered Monday afternoon.

The exact nature of the suspected felony was not known, but according to the documents, “Based upon the California Highway Patrol investigation, it is their belief ‘a felony has been committed,’” Fox 12 Oregon reported.

However, authorities maintain there’s no evidence to suggest the crash was intentional, the Oregonian reported.

The court documents indicate that CHP investigators found no “acceleration marks, tire friction marks or braking furrow marks” at the scene, and there was no evidence the car collided with the embankment as it “traversed towards the tidal zone below,” Fox 12 reported.

According to the Oregonian, friends’ depictions and social media posts of the Hart family are at odds with police records.

According to accounts of the family’s neighbors in Washington state, one child had shown up at a neighbor’s doorstep alleging abuse while another had asked neighbors for food because it was supposedly being withheld as punishment.

Another child reportedly told police that Sarah Hart had hit her repeatedly with a closed fist and put her in a cold bath. According to the Oregonian, Hart pleaded guilty to the abuse in April 2011 and was sentenced to a year of probation. In another July 2013 incident, authorities responded to a call at the family’s residence.

Days before the fatal crash, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services opened a case into the family because the children had been identified as “potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect,” the Oregonian reported. The agency had attempted to contact the family but they had reportedly left home that day.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.



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