Child's Body Found Along NorCal River In Search For Missing Family

Sheila Mcguire
April 14, 2018

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman provides an update on the Hart family crash investigation during a Friday press conference with the California Highway Patrol.

Just weeks after the Hart family perished in a fatal plunge from an ocean overlook along the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California, rescuers were searching for another family feared to have driven into water in the same county.

The three other children, who were believed to have also been in the SUV when it went over the cliff, remained missing but were presumed killed, police have said.

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Members of the Hart family pictured at the annual celebration of "The Goonies" movie in Astoria.

Five bodies were found March 26 near the small city of Mendocino, a few days after Washington state authorities began investigating the Harts for possible child neglect, but three of their children were not found at the scene.

A Mendocino County Sheriff's Office spokesman didn't immediately respond to a message seeking information.

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He noted the Yukon had traveled some 23 metres along an unpaved roadside pullout before running off the cliff, leaving behind no skid or brake marks, indicating the vehicle may have been driven off the cliff intentionally. California drivers are considered drunk with a level of 0.08 or higher.

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.

The sheriff's office released a statement Thursday saying that along with various personal items found that were consistent with a family traveling on vacation, there were several items positively identified by relatives as belonging to the Thottapilly family. The office was still waiting on toxicology results from a third child. Authorities believe Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12, may have been in the vehicle and were swept out to sea.

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Devonte Hart gained fame when this picture of him hugging officer Johnny Nguyen at a Portland rally went viral. "These items were of a personal nature and will not be described further at this time, but it does confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family".

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