Bodies of Missing Family Recovered After Car Plunged into River Near Other California Crash Site
All four members of the missing Thottapilly family have been found dead after their car was reportedly seen falling into a river in California
All four members of the missing Thottapilly family have been found dead after their car was reportedly seen plunging into a river in California.
Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Gregory L. Van Patten said in a press release updated Monday that the bodies of Sandeep Thottapilly, 41, and Saachi Thottapilly, 9, were recovered from inside a vehicle in the Eel River.
Soumya Thottapilly, 38, was also identified this week after her body was found in another area of the river on Friday.
On Monday, search crews recovered the body of 12-year-old Siddhant Thottapilly six miles downstream of the crash site, according to Van Patten.
Autopsies are expected to be performed as part of the coroner’s investigation this week, he said.
On Sunday morning, the family’s vehicle was located about a half a mile downstream of the crash site by search teams who detected the smell of gasoline in the water. Van Patten said the car was submerged in four to six feet of water and encased in sediment. The vehicle was removed from the river with a tow truck.
The Thottapilly family left their home in Valencia on March 30 for a road trip to Portland, Oregon. They planned to meet with relatives in San Jose during their drive back home on April 7, according to KTLA, but when they didn’t show up or call, the family members reported them missing. Loved ones said they had not heard from the Thottapillys since April 5.
Police believe the family vehicle was the same one that witnesses reported seeing going down a steep embankment of the Eel River off of Highway 101 in heavy rain on April 6.
The vehicle — which was completely submerged when emergency responders arrived — and the river’s strong currents led to police to call in helicopters to help with the search, CNN reported at the time.
According to the LA Times, officers recovered debris at the scene that may indicate there was an impact leading up to the accident.
Where the SUV was reported to have gone into the river is only about 30 miles from the deadly incident last month involving the Hart family.
On March 26, five of the eight members of the family — parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart and three of their children — were discovered dead at the bottom of a cliff. The body of the couple’s 12-year-old daughter Ciera was found on April 7 in the water nearby, while the two other children remain missing but are presumed dead.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said on April 4 that he believes the crash involving the Hart family was a crime and not an accident.
Key questions remain about the incident, however, such as when it occurred and why the family was traveling in California hundreds of miles from their home. A motive has also not been publicly confirmed.