California woman who drove family off cliff was drunk: sheriff

California woman who drove family off cliff was drunk: sheriff

A truck drives by the pullout where the SUV of Jennifer and Sarah Hart was recovered off the Pacific Coast Highway, near Westport, Calif., Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

The Woodland, Wash., mother who was driving when an SUV carrying her wife and children plunged off a California cliff last month was drunk, officials said Friday.

They say the items are consistent with a family on vacation and unspecified items were identified by relatives of the Thottapilly family. The crash happened just days after authorities in Washington state opened an investigation following allegations the children were being neglected.

Jennifer Hart had an alcohol level of 0.102, according to a news release from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, citing a preliminary toxicology report.

Under California law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

"Toxicology tests also revealed that at least some of the car's passengers had "significant" amounts of a sleep-inducing drug found in Benadryl in their systems", the Associated Press reported today.

The CHP said on Friday nobody in the SUV was wearing a seat belt when the auto when over the cliff. On Saturday, a body was pulled from the surf in that area and authorities are working to determine whether it belongs to one of the children.

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The vehicle itself and the four members of the Thottapilly family have not been recovered from the Eel River, which remains too risky for divers to enter, but searchers along the banks located numerous items consistent with a Honda vehicle and interior, and items consistent with a family traveling on vacation, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. A specialized team of accident investigators is trying to figure that out with help from the FBI, Carpenter said.

Jennifer, her wife Sarah and three of their children were found dead after their vehicle plunged into the Pacific Ocean March 26.

A "missing" poster shared by friends and family on Facebook identified the Thottapilly family members as 42-year-old Sandeep, 38-year-old Soumya, 12-year-old Siddhanty and 9-year-old Saachi.

Their bodies and those of three of their children-Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14 - were recovered, while their other three children-Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, 15 - are missing and feared dead.

Last August, soon after the Harts moved into their rural home, neighbors Bruce and Dana DeKalb said a child rang their doorbell, seeking sanctuary from abuse.

The family was officially reported as missing to the San Jose Police Department on April 8.

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