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Desperate Search For Children Missing In Fatal Highway 1 Plunge

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A desperate search was launched Wednesday for three missing children who may have been passengers in a vehicle that plunged off Highway 1 in Mendocino County, crashing into the rocks below and claiming five lives, authorities said.

The California Highway Patrol said the family's 2003 GMC was driving south along Highway 1 on Monday when it pulled into a dirt turnout along the road and for unknown reasons continued directly off the cliff. The vehicle landed on its roof on a large rock, killing all five victims found inside the SUV.

Investigators said it was not clear what caused the crash. The weather was reported as clear and drugs and alcohol were not considered factors.

The victims have been identified by the Mendocino County coroner as Jennifer Jean Hart, 38; Sarah Margaret Hart, 38; Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14.

The three missing children who were believed to also be traveling with them are 16-year-old Devonte Hart; 16-year-old Hannah Hart and 12-year-old Sierra Hart.

All of them were listed as living in Woodland, Washington.

Devonte Hart drew nationwide media attention in 2014 after having been photographed hugging a Portland Oregon police sergeant during a demonstration related to the events related to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. The Mendocino Sheriff's Office reached out to the Portland Oregon Police Department and learned the family, due to the intense media coverage generated by the photo, may have moved from Oregon to Washington state.

Devonte Hart CNN Photo by Johnny Nguyen

On Wednesday, a massive search was launched after it was learned that the three additional family members were missing. The Sheriff's Office, CHP And Coast Guard launched the search in the ocean waters and shoreline where the accident occurred.

The CHP was using a fixed wing airplane and a helicopter, the Coast Guard launched a rescue boat and the Mendocino County Sheriff's search and rescue teams combed the beach area below the cliff.

Meanwhile, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office has sent in six deputies with drones to aid in the search. So far the ocean conditions have not allowed the use of rescue/recovery divers in the search efforts.

In Washington state, officials said the two women failed to respond to a visit by Cowlitz County Child Protective Services earlier this week. The Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office confirmed to KOIN CBS 6 that Child Protective Services went to the house on Monday after two people called them and expressed concern about the children.

Online court records also revealed that Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota in 2011. Her plea in Douglas County also led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child. No other details were immediately available.

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