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Famous LGBT family killed in tragic auto crash

The Hart Clan was found dead in a tragic vehicle accident in Northern California.
Photo credit:
Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department

The LGBT community and their allies are mourning the tragic loss of a family who perished in a horrific car accident on Monday.

Married couple Sarah and Jennifer Hart and their family of six children became well-known as the Hart Tribe, traveling around the country offering free hugs at festivals and political events in an effort to promote unity.

The two women and their three children Jeremiah, 14, Abigail, 14, and Markis, 19, were found in the family SUV when it plunged over a Northern California cliff. Their other children Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12 are believed to have been with them, but their bodies have not yet been recovered.

"We know that an entire family vanished and perished during this tragedy," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman on Wednesday. He is asking people to come forward if they can provide some information on the family and the hours that led up to the accident.

Police are not clear what caused the car to careen over the cliff.  “There were no skid marks. There were no brake marks,” Allman said. “There was no indication of why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75 feet off a dirt pullout and went into the Pacific Ocean.”

CHP Sgt. Christopher Dalin said, “We don’t know if it rolled over the edge or if it launched over the edge.” 

A family friend, photographer Zippy Lomax remembers the Hart’s and their intrepid way of life.  

"This is a tragic accident of a magnitude that cannot be measured," Lomax told the Associated Press.

"They were really radiant, warm, adventurous inspiring people. They were always on some grand adventure, and the kids were living this life that was kind of like this dream," He added. "The family was this very self-supporting unit that was impossible to miss. When they showed up to an event, they made an impression. They shattered a lot of norms and they did not shy away from controversy or adversity."

Their son Devonte Hart became famous after he was photographed hugging a police officer during a protest against a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who shot a black man in Ferguson Missouri. Devonte held a sign reading “free hugs,” of which one officer at the rally partook. 

The viral photo was endearing but also brought with it mass publicity which included death threats.

The family moved to Woodland, Washington near Portland partly to escape the public eye according to the AP.

Recently Washington state child protective services sought to question the mothers because of reports from neighbors who say Devonte often visited them begging for food. They also said another of their children had appeared on their doorstep wrapped in a blanket and asking for help early one morning in August 2017.

In 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to domestic assault against one of her daughters, say reports.

But people who knew them say the recent reports of abuse are unfounded. 

Family friend Pte Sapa Win took to Facebook and posted a video about the family saying, “Most of the articles are sketchy… and just take it with a grain of salt right now. Unless there is a note or some indication, we don’t know. We may never know. Most of us knew them (really) well. But sometimes people do keep secrets, you see that all the time. So keep that in mind… I really want this to be a sick April Fool’s joke early.”

“I’ve never known anybody as beautiful, inspiring, and loving and tough, tenacious,” she continued. “I’ve never seen any signs or anything that made me even remotely concerned with the care of the kids. I was always highly impressed with how well-mannered they were, how giving, how loving. I’ve never come across anyone like them, and I know I never will again.”

Picture at left: Johnny Huu Nguyen, AP