Dive Teams Sought for Missing People in the Hart Accident off Hwy 1 and the Missing Vehicle That Was Swallowed by the Eel River on Friday

In Mendocino County, two vehicles have plunged into areas in or very near water in the last two weeks and the Sheriff’s Department has to find two different kinds of dive teams to deal with the differing surroundings. Lt. Shannon Barney of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department explained that because of the different conditions an ocean dive team will work on the Hart family accident from March 26 which has received national attention and a swift water dive team will work on the vehicle that was swallowed by the Eel River last Friday and has received little notice.

vehicle crash near the ocean

Emergency personnel had to fight a rising tide at the scene of the Hart family accident. [Photo from Mendocino Sports Plus]

First, the Hart family’s vehicle plunged over a cliff off Hwy 1 101 near Juan Creek on March 26. While the two parents and three of their children were recovered at the scene, three children are still listed as missing although the Sheriff’s Department is investigating the possibility that a body was located on April 7 near the crash scene that could be one of the children.

Today, the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office announced that their search yesterday was unsuccessful and Search and Rescue divers “are preparing to be deployed to the area of the crash site once ocean conditions improve for safety reasons.”

However, recent storms including one that began last night are creating a difficult situation for any search team. The Sheriff’s Office explained, “It is anticipated that ocean conditions will not improve for several days.”

A similar but different situation is occurring north of Leggett on Hwy 101 where an unknown vehicle plunged beneath the rapidly rising waters of the Eel River last Friday, April 6. A passerby saw just enough to know a vehicle had gone in but not enough to describe the vehicle.

Lt. Shannon Barney said that although the waters are still too high and dangerous to send in dive teams, he is preparing now for when the waters drop. He says his department wants to gather a swift water team to assist the California Highway Patrol “when the waters recede a bit.”

He doesn’t anticipate that the waters will rise much with this current rainfall. “From what I heard, we’re not anticipated to have a lot of rain,” he said. “I don’t expect significant rises.”

Still, it could be some time before the water drops enough to find the missing vehicle, “We’re talking maybe next week at the earliest,” he said. “We’re just trying to be prepared when the window opens up…We’re reaching out to teams around the state.”

A swift water dive team will have to wear special equipment, he explained.  “When you go into swift water you have to wear a dry suit…If there is contamination around the vehicle, it is needed to protect the diver.”

flooding Eel River north of Leggett

Water continued to rise where the vehicle was last seen upside down in the Eel River for several days. [Photo provided by Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue]

Earlier Chapters for Hart Family:

Earlier Chapters for Vehicle Swallowed by the Eel River: 



  • The safest way to find the car in the river is with a Drone. Hook up a metal detector, search the areas that you get a hit. The heaviest part of a metal detector is the handle and pole, remove the unnecessary parts, mount the detector on a DJI inspire. It can carry 16 lbs of camera.

  • “First, the Hart family’s vehicle plunged over a cliff off Hwy 101 near Juan Creek on March 26. ”

    Kym, that should read “off Hwy 1”.

  • Why not wait until the water goes down.
    Not much you’re going to do for the victims anyway.

    Same thing on the Mendo coast.
    Don’t risk a living person over recovering a body.

    Not worth it.

  • This corresponds to the time frame of your story of the car into the river at confusion hill
    (from Facebook, posted by KMUD).

    Valencia family reported missing during coastal road trip
    Members of a Valencia family are worried for the well-being of four relatives on a road trip who have been missing since Thursday. Two adults and two children of the…
    signalscv.com|By Jim Holt (https://signalscv.com/2018/04/valencia-family-reported-missing-coastal-road-trip/

  • Passed the turnout on the Eel a few minutes ago. CHP and fire crews were staring down to the river. Water is lower now. Must have spotted the car is my guess.

  • If the hole is deep enough a drift boat or raft with a decent sonar could tell if its there right now!
    What they need to worry about IMO is if the vehicle has become partially baried by the sediment it could make it quite and undertaking!

  • I am not in disbelief but someone please explain to me how a turnout becomes a wash out, right when someone turns out. I will always think twice before turning out on sides of cliffs, I guess. I am confused as to the photo as well; is the photo taken at the height of the road or at the bank of the river?

  • The Hart “accident” ? That’s pretty presumptuous

    • Absent any evidence it was deliberate, accident sounds like a good term. It’s usually used for automobile incidents.

      I can think of several scenarios where it would have been an accident… they pull over to have snacks/stretch legs/etc, leave the vehicle idling, someone bumps the gearshift, they’re too close to the edge before they notice they’re rolling, or the driver is leaning over the seats looking for food and hits the gas pedal, or such. Or the driver has a medical incident, they pull over, then the driver passes out as they’re all getting ready to help, slumps over, foot on the gas, and no one shuts it off in time. Or who knows what. As far as I know, there’s no evidence it was deliberate. It’s been annoying me for a while now that they seem to have jumped to the conclusion that’s most harmful.

      • Were the goats go

        I agree,every one so quick to blame! I would like to know if they were so abusive Why the hell did the state allow them to adopt 1,2,3,4,5,and 6 kids, really. People need to stop just being so quick to jump to evil blame.

  • I just saw on channel 7 here in Redding area that the vehicle of the missing socal family is the one that went into the eel. The report had a lot of misinformation about the area and the agencies in-charge. But I’m not going to take it as fact until someone local anounces that! Maybe an update you haven’t got yet Kym?

  • This is so sad, a second carload with parents, children, traveling, our roads are deadly, let’s remember that and keep safe distance from car ahead of you and please use turnouts.
    Kym- A good piece for our travel guides and web sites for you…
    Drivers’ Survival Guide for Travel in the Emerald Triangle :
    [ listing the unique do’s and dont’s for driving our roads and surviving! ]

    • I also think this would be good although not helpful to strangers passing through. When traveling at highway speed, turnouts without signage can come up and pass by so fast, it is hard to safely use the smaller ones. You need to slow up before you get to one to safely stop within it and, if you don’t know it’s coming up, you can’t do it.

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