Police: Family missing after SUV sinks into California river
A family of four taking a West Coast road trip has vanished, and the disappearance coincides with a report of a vehicle sinking into Northern California’s Eel River last week.
Authorities are not connecting the two incidents, but the Thottapilly family was last heard from the day before authorities received reports of a maroon Honda Pilot — the same color and make of the Thottapillys’ SUV — submerging into the swollen river along US Highway 101 north of Leggett, according to local media reports.
A family member reported Sandeep and Soumya Thottapilly — along with their children Siddhant, 12, and Saachi, 9 — missing Sunday. They had been driving from Portland, Oregon, to their home in Santa Clarita, California, north of Los Angeles, according to the San Jose Police Department.
The family was traveling in a 2016 Pilot with California tags.
The Thottapillys were expected to make a stop Friday at a relative’s home in San Jose, just south of San Francisco, but never showed, San Jose police said. Family members last spoke to them Thursday.
On Friday, the California Highway Patrol said, authorities received a report of a vehicle leaving Highway 101 and descending a steep embankment as torrential rain fell in the area, which is populated by two state parks. This was just after 1 p.m., according to state police.
When emergency personnel arrived, the vehicle was submerged, and the strong current and poor clarity hampered search efforts, police said. Helicopters were brought in, but to no avail.
On Tuesday, the Garberville office of the California Highway Patrol established a multijurisdictional search team.
“All available resources are being utilized by searching personnel,” state police said in a statement. “Through the collaborated efforts of all the involved agencies we are working to resolve this incident as quickly and safely as possible.”
The site of the reported accident is roughly 30 miles up the coast from where an SUV carrying another family plunged off a cliff last month onto a rocky Pacific Coast shoreline along a remote stretch in Mendocino County.
The bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, were found March 26 inside their crashed SUV, along with three of their adopted children. Three other children remain missing.