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Mother was driving drunk when Hart family SUV plunged into ocean, police say

Toxicology tests showed that the preliminary blood-alcohol content of Jennifer Hart was 0.102 percent.
by Dennis Romero /  / Updated 
Image: The Hart family of Woodland, Washington, at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver, Washington on March 20, 2016.
The Hart family of Woodland, Washington, at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver, Washington, on March 20, 2016.Tristan Fortsch / KATU News via AP file

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The woman who was behind the wheel of an SUV that plunged over a cliff and ended up in the Pacific along the rocky Northern California shore last month — killing her wife and kids — was legally drunk, authorities said Friday.

Driver Jennifer Hart, her wife and three of their adopted children died in the crash in Mendocino County, three other children are still missing but presumed dead.

California HIghway Patrol Capt. Bruce Carpenter told reporters that toxicology tests showed that the preliminary blood-alcohol content was 0.102 percent for Jennifer Hart, a reading that's about 25 percent higher than the state's legal drunk-driving definition, 0.08 percent.

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.

Investigators have previously said it's possible the crash was intentional.

The GMC Yukon plunged off the cliff off Highway 1 on March 26. Medocino County Sheriff Thomas D. Allman said today the vehicle pulled onto "a dirt pullout" before stopping 70 feet from the edge and then producing "just acceleration, until they went over."

None of the occupants were wearing seat belts, Carpenter said.

Five hours before the crash welfare authorities in the Hart's hometown in Washington state tried to reach the couple and their six adoptees following "concerns that the children aren't being fed," according to what one of of the investigators told a 911 dispatcher during a request for a wellfare check that day.

Jennifer Jean Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart, both 38, and three children — Markis, 19, and Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14 — were confirmed dead. Three other children, Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, also 15, are missing. Devonte Hart had made headlines years before the crash when a picture of him hugging a police officer during police-brutality protests went viral.

A body that washed ashore Saturday had not been identified and authorities were reluctant to link it to the crash.

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