Body pulled from ocean in 'immediate vicinity' of Hart family crash site

In this March 28, 2018 aerial file image from Alameda County Sheriff's Office drone video courtesy of Mendocino County shows the pullout where the SUV of Jennifer and Sarah Hart was recovered off the off Pacific Coast Highway 1, near Westport, Calif. The SUV carrying the large, free-spirited family from Washington state accelerated straight off the scenic California cliff and the deadly wreck may have been intentional, authorities said Sunday, April 1, 2018. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

A couple vacationing on California's coast spotted a body in the Pacific Ocean near the Hart family crash site Saturday afternoon.

A bystander pulled the body from the stormy surf and onto the beach where it was recovered by Westport Fire crews.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office says the body appears to be that of an African American female, and that deputies are investigating the possibility that it may be one of the two missing Hart girls.

Official identification will most likely be done through DNA analysis, which could take several weeks.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is monitoring ocean conditions to see when further searches might be safely conducted.

California Highway Patrol found five members of the Hart family, who most recently lived in Woodland, Washington, dead inside their SUV that crashed off a cliff last week.

The Mendocino County sheriff says he does not believe the crash was an accident.

In an interview with HLN, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said, "I’m to the point where I’m no longer calling this an accident. I’m calling it a crime."

Devonte Hart, one of the children still missing, is a well-known face in the Portland community after a photo of him hugging a police officer during a Ferguson protest went viral.

Parents, Sarah and Jennifer, were the subject of several domestic incidents over the years. Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children.

Last month, concerned neighbors in Woodland contacted child welfare authorities, saying the parents may have been withholding meals from the children.

On Sunday, authorities disclosed that data from the vehicle's software suggested the crash was deliberate. They said the SUV had stopped at a pull-off area before speeding straight off the cliff.

RELATED: Woman says she reported 'cruel' treatment by Jennifer and Sarah Hart

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