Body of last missing family member found in California river

Share

In a tragic turn of events, the bodies of three members of a Southern California Indian American family - whose maroon Honda Pilot had plunged into the Eel River near Leggett, California as they returned home from a spring break vacation in OR - were found and identified April 15 by a multi-agency search and rescue team. Their disappearance coincided with reports that a vehicle had sunk into the Eel River in Northern California.

On Sunday, searchers found the bodies of 41-year-old Sandeep Thottapilly and his 9-year-old daughter, Saachi, inside the vehicle that was submerged in the Eel River.

The body of the fourth family member, 38-year-old Souyma Thottapilly, was recovered Friday about 7 miles north of the crash site in an area that had been previously covered by the river.

The bodies of Sandeep and Saachi were recovered yesterday inside the vehicle, a Honda Pilot, which was recovered from about 4-6 feet of river water, the police said. Autopsies are expected to be performed this week as part of the Coroner's investigation into the incident.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said Monday that a boating team searching the Eel River noticed the fuel odor about half a mile (1 kilometer) downstream from where the crash was reported. Visibility was extremely poor and divers noted the vehicle was encased in a large amount of sediment from the river current. This provided searchers the ability to conduct a visual inspection of the inside of the vehicle. About 6:30 p.m. a tow truck was able to partially pull the vehicle out and the bodies were found. Five bodies were found March 26 near Mendocino, a few days after Washington state authorities began investigating the Harts for possible child neglect, but three of their children were not immediately recovered from the scene along the shoreline.

"Several items have been positively identified, by family members, as belonging to the Thottapilly family", it said.

They were reported missing April 8 after failing to show up for family visit in San Jose.

Before the family was known to be missing, authorities in Mendocino County received reports that a vehicle southbound on US 101 went off the highway and tumbled into the Eel River.

Share