Family missing after SUV sinks into California river, police say

Searchers on the Eel River near Confusion Hill

Searchers last Thursday had recovered debris and personal items confirmed that an SUV seen plunging into the Northern California river belonged to the Thottapilly family, authorities said.

Officials later learned it matched the description of the Thottapilly's maroon Honda Pilot.

A deceased child woman* believed to be from the missing Thottapilly family has been located at 10:20 this morning about seven miles north of the accident scene, announced Sheriff Thomas Allman at a press conference today.

On the day of the reported crash, a search and rescue dive team was dispatched, but the crews weren't able to search because a storm had caused an unsafe height and current in the river, the county sheriff's office said.

Sandeep Thottapilly, his wife and two children have not been heard from since late last week when they were in Klamath-Redwood National Park area in Northern California.

The Thottapilly family from Santa Clarita, Calif., is missing. The relative reported them missing to San Jose police on Sunday.

The Mendocino County Sheriffs Office has been in contact with numerous other county dive teams and technical rescue responders that can be called upon, when the vehicle is located, to assist with recovery of the vehicle. The Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol agreed to do continuous evaluations as the river levels receded.

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On Tuesday and Wednesday, weather conditions in the area improved enough for a search team to enter the river on inflatable boats and use poles to probe the water. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office also searched with its jet boat with a side scan sonar system, sheriff's officials said.

"These items were of a personal nature and will not be described further at this time, but it does confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family", the California Highway Patrol said.

Authorities responded to the river, but while they were unable to search the river at the time due to the weather conditions, they recovered a vehicle part that came from a maroon Honda Pilot, according to the CHP. The river is still too risky for divers to enter, but searchers along the banks found several items consistent with a Honda vehicle.

The vehicle had not been located till the filing of this report.

Family members positively identified several of the items as belonging to the four members of the Thottapilly family of Santa Clarita, according to the sheriff's office. They were able to locate numerous items that appeared to have come from a vehicle body and interior. Also located were various personal items that were consistent with a family traveling on vacation.

The California Highway Patrol received a report around 1:10 p.m. last Friday that a vehicle went over a steep embankment on U.S. Highway 101 south of Dora Creek just north of Leggett. Once recovered, the SUV will undergo a full mechanical inspection as part of the CHP's investigation.

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