California car cliff plunge kills US family

An entire family has died after their vehicle plunged over a cliff in northern California, authorities say.

The bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart and three of their adopted teenagers were recovered after a passer-by saw their overturned SUV on Monday.

Investigators are still searching for three more children.

One of those missing, 15-year-old Devonte Hart, made headlines in 2014 after a photo
of him crying and hugging a police officer went viral.

The image was taken at a protest sparked by the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Authorities believe that Devonte and two other children were also in the car at the time of the incident.

"We know that an entire family vanished and perished during this tragedy," Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman was quoted by the Associated Press (AP) as saying.

Unanswered questions

The family, who lived in Woodland, Washington, was recently visited by Child Protective Services, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Social and Health Services told AP.

They are believed to have left their home for a short trip.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said on Wednesday that the scene was unusual because the vehicle had travelled across 23m (75-foot) area separating the road from the cliff edge before the 31m plunge. No skid or brake marks were found at the scene.

But he added that there was "no evidence and no reason to believe this was an intentional act" and appealed for anyone with knowledge of the family's whereabouts before Monday to come forward.


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