Published: Sat, April 14, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

California: Personal belongings of missing Indian family recovered from river, say authorities

On Thursday, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said it had found belongings of the Thottapilly family, of Santa Clarita, as well as vehicle parts from their SUV about 14 miles down river from where investigators believe they rolled down an embankment.

Authorities said that a vehicle, which witnesses defined as possibly a Honda Pilot SUV, vanished after falling in to the rain-swollen Eel River in Mendocino County around 1 p.m. Friday. During their investigation the California Highway Patrol discovered a possible auto part, that was thought to have been broken from the vehicle, at the scene.

Sandeep and Soumya Thottapilly and their two children were traveling from Portland, Oregon, to their home in Santa Clarita.

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Vehicle parts recovered from the water had serial numbers that helped authorities identify the auto as a maroon 2016 Honda Pilot SUV, Taylor said, but the auto itself has not been located.

The teams accessed the river in inflatable boats and on River Boards, a small floatation device created to allow full access under overhanging trees or tight areas not accessible by boat.

Search teams scoured through 12 miles of the swollen Eel River using long poles, inflatable boats and a sonar system over two days but did not find the maroon Honda Pilot the Thottapilly family was traveling in, KTLA reported. Berkowitz attempted to go down the embankment 15 to 20 feet and recalls saying, "And so I'm yelling, 'hello, hello, anyone there?'" Authorities say the SUV matches the description of the vehicle the Thottapilly family was traveling in, which was a maroon/burgundy 2016 Honda Pilot with California license plate 7MMX138.

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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. Through their investigation they were able to determine that particular part belonged to a Honda Pilot, maroon in color.

Witnesses told the California Highway Patrol they saw a auto matching the description of the family's go into the Eel River on April 6 during stormy weather. When they did not arrive home to Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County, relatives reported them missing on Sunday.

"Some of these items were consistent with a Honda vehicle", the CHP said in the Facebook post. "Several items have been positively identified, by the family members, as belonging to the Thottapilly family", it said. "We are doing everything within our power to locate this vehicle and to bring some closure to whoever the occupants may be". "These items were of a personal nature and will not be described further at this time", the highway patrol said.

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Sheriff's officials plan to hold a press conference about the search Friday afternoon.

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