Sheriff: Missing Family's Items Found Along NorCal River

Nellie Chapman
April 13, 2018

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office says recovered debris and personal items confirm that a vehicle seen plunging into a storm-swollen river in Humboldt County last week belonged to a family from Southern California that went missing while on a road trip from Portland to the Bay Area. Also located were various personal items that were consistent with a family traveling on vacation.

The vehicle itself and the four members of the Thottapilly family have not been recovered from the Eel River, which remains too unsafe for divers to enter, but searchers along the banks located numerous items consistent with a Honda vehicle and interior, and items consistent with a family traveling on vacation, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

A family member said officers told him there were "upwards of 12 shots" fired that night. The search teams were able to cover approximately 12 miles of river bank.

According to the San Jose Police Department, the Thottapilly family was supposed to have arrived to visit a friend in the San Jose area on April 6 but did not make it as scheduled.

Farther south along the Mendocino County coast, authorities continue to look for members of the Hart family, missing since an SUV made a deadly and possibly intentional plunge off a towering ocean bluff along the Pacific Coast Highway last month.

The personal belongings of a Santa Clarita family of four missing since last week have been found in a Northern California river, authorities said.

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.

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"It was determine that diving or swift water rescue operations could not be conducted in a safe manner due to the height and flow of the river during the storm", Wunderlich reported.

The teams accessed the river in inflatable boats and using smaller floatation devices.

On Friday, April 6, as motorists traveling on United States 101 battled against heavy rains, one vehicle - a maroon Honda Pilot - was seen entering Eel River, becoming submerged and making a rescue by concerned motorists who stopped impossible. According to the Associated Press, a relative expecting them in San Jose on April 6 reported them missing on April 8. "At this time, there's no conclusive evidence that this was their vehicle".

Meanwhile, Sandeep Thottapilly's father, Babu Subramaniam Thottapilly, who lives in Surat, Gujarat, has taken to Twitter to plead for help from Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. "They are coordinating with the police".

A flyer asking for help in the search was posted on a family member's Facebook page.

In Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Warren said investigators were working to obtain search warrants for cellphone carriers to see where the family members' phones last pinged.

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