Police recovers vehicle parts, personal belongings of missing Indian family from US river

Apr 13, 2018, 16:29 IST | PTI

Personal belongings of the four members of the Thottapilly family from Santa Clarita in California, who were believed to be travelling through Humboldt and Mendocino County on US-101 while on a vacation, were also found by the team

Representational picture

An inter-agency search and rescue team in California on Friday recovered some personal items and numerous parts of a vehicle from a swollen river in which a missing Indian family was travelling last week. Personal belongings of the four members of the Thottapilly family from Santa Clarita in California, who were believed to be travelling through Humboldt and Mendocino County on US-101 while on a vacation, were also found by the team over a two-day period on Tuesday and Wednesday, officials said.

Sandeep Thottapilly, 41, vice president of the Union Bank on Santa Clarita, and his wife Soumya Thottapilly, 38, were on a road trip along with their two kids -- Siddhanth, 12 and Saachi, nine -- in the maroon Honda Pilot from Portland, Oregon to San Jose in Southern California, during which they went missing on April 5. Later, Mendocino County Sheriff declared them as missing persons.

Between the two search days, the Swift Water Rescue Teams were able to cover approximately 12 miles of the Eel river, just north of the town of Leggett in California. The vehicle is reported to have submerged in the river around 1:10 pm on April 6. "The teams were unsuccessful in locating the vehicle or any occupants from the vehicle. They were able to locate numerous items that appeared to have come from a vehicle body and interior," the Garberville office of the California Highway Patrol said. It said several items were identified by the family members of those missing.

"Some of these items were consistent with a Honda vehicle. Also located were various personal items that were consistent with a family travelling on vacation. Several items have been positively identified, by the family members, as belonging to the Thottapilly family," it said. "These items were of a personal nature and will not be described further at this time, but it does confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family," the California Highway Patrol 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. Once the vehicle is recovered, the California Highway Patrol will conduct a complete mechanical inspection of the vehicle as part of the accident investigation. The Swift Water Rescue Teams conducted a bank search as well as some limited "probing", a technique using a long pole being probed underwater to see if the vehicle or anything metallic could be located.

According to the highway patrol, the teams accessed the river in inflatable boats and on 'River Boards', a small floatation device designed to allow full access under overhanging trees or tight areas not accessible by boat. The Humboldt County Sheriffs Office also assisted with the use of their jet boat with side scan sonar system. 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. The family was last heard from in the town of Klamath, Del Norte County, on April 5.

The California Highway Patrol developed information that the family were travelling in a family vehicle, a 2016 maroon Honda Pilot. The family was officially reported as missing to the San Jose Police Department on April 8. Sandeep grew up in Surat city in Gujarat and settled down in the US over 15 years ago.

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