The two women and their six adopted children traveled to festivals and events to offer free hugs and promote unity, friends said. They bred animals and grew vegetables and moved to a piece of land in rural Southwest Washington last year, a dream of theirs.
The Hart Tribe, as they were called, also took spontaneous car rides to hike or camp and make friends believe they might have been on one of these adventures when their SUV crashed off a scenic California freeway.
"We know that a whole family disappeared and died during this tragedy," Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said Wednesday when he asked for help tracking where the family had been before the vehicle was found on Monday.
Friends described the couple Jennifer and Sarah Hart as loving, inspiring parents who promoted social justice and exposed their "remarkable children" to art, music and nature. But neighbors said they saw signs that they worried about how the homeschooled children were cared for.
The California Highway Patrol has not determined why the vehicle overlooked an ocean that is on a rugged part of the shoreline. A specialized team of accident researchers have been trying to figure that out, Allman said.
"We have no evidence and no reason to believe that this was an intentional act," he said, adding that the scene was confusing with no skid marks, there were no skid marks "at the roadside exit where the vehicle was
Authorities believe six children were in the vehicle with their parents, even though three siblings were not found.
"This is a tragic accident of an order of magnitude that can not be measured "said Zippy Lomax, a photographer who knew the harts.
" They were really bright, warm, adventurous, inspiring people. They were always on a big adventure, and the kids lived that life that was like that dream, "Lomax told the Associated Press." The family was a very self-sustaining unit that could not be overlooked. When they appeared at an event, they made an impression. They destroyed many norms and did not shy away from controversy or adversity. "
The Harts, who attended events such as rallies for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, often appeared in matching T-shirts.
The family gained attention after Devonte Hart was photographed by a grand jury during a protest in Portland, Oregon, in 2014. The decision was made not to sue a police officer for the shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri, the boy who was holding a "Free Hugs" sign was crying A Portland officer saw his shield and asked if he could have a hug, and an emotional Hart hugged him in a picture that was widely used.
The Harts moved to Woodland, Washington, a small town outside of Portland, Oregon spring last year, partially overwhelmed by media coverage, the MN also received Morddro "said Ribner.
The family had recently been visited by state child protection services, Clark County Sheriff Sgt. Brent Waddell told AP.
Neighbors Bruce and Dana DeKalb said they called childcare services on Friday for concern over Devonte Hart, who had come to their home last week to ask for food  Dana DeKalb said the boy told her that his parents "would not feed them" and "punish them by holding food back." He stopped by for a week almost every day and asked her to leave food in a box by the fence for him, she said.
Washington state child protection authorities opened an investigation Friday and attempted to contact the family three times since Friday, but were unable to reach them, said Norah West, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Social and Health Services. The agency had no previous family history, she said.
The DeKalbs also related that three months after the family moved into the house in May 2017 for 2 acres with a fenced pasture, one of the girls rang at 1:30 pm
She "stood in a blanket our door and said we had to protect them, "said Bruce DeKalb. "She said they abused her."
In 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota. Their appeal led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child, it said in online court documents.
Max Ribner, who knows the family since 2012, said neighbors' accusations do not match what he knows about the harts
"They are beautiful examples of how to open strangers arms to help youth and supporting racial equality, "said Ribner, who lives in Portland, opposite the AP. "They brought so much joy to the world, they represented a legacy of love."
Bill Groener, 67, was a neighbor of the Harts when they lived in West Linn, Oregon, and said the children mostly stayed indoors. He said that the family had not eaten any sugar, raised their own vegetables, had animals, and gone on camping trips.
"There was enough positivity to somehow counteract the feeling that something was wrong," said Groener
Le reported from Seattle. AP reporters Paul Elias of San Francisco, Steven Dubois of Portland, Oregon, and Alina Hartounian of Phoenix also contributed.