soumya

Following an exhaustive 10-day search for a missing Indian American family who likely crashed into the Eel River near Leggett, California, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office reported it has found the deceased body of an adult female, about seven miles north of the crash site. Pictured is Soumya Somanath Thottapilly, believed to be the unidentified victim. (everipedia photo)

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office announced April 13 that it has found the body of an adult female, seven miles north of where an Indian American family is believed to have crashed into the rain-swollen Eel River in Northern California.

The body has not yet been identified, according to the MCSO.

An April 12 press statement from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s office lists Sandeep Thottapilly, 41; Soumya Thottapilly, 38; Siddhant Thottapilly, 12; and Saachi Thottapilly, 9, as victims in the search and rescue operation which began April 6.

The April 13 update from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office stated: "On April 13, at approximately 10:45 a.m., searchers located the deceased body of an adult female approximately seven miles north of the reported crash site. The Eel River flows in a northern direction.”

“The body was found on exposed terrain which appeared to have covered by the Eel River within the last few days as a result of a recent weather storm which brought heavy rain to the area.”

“Identification of the body is pending at this time and an autopsy is anticipated to be conducted on April 17.”

“Searchers are continuing to search for the missing family members and their vehicle which is believed to still be submerged somewhere in the Eel River,” said the Sheriff’s office.

The family, who lives in Southern California, were driving home from a spring break vacation in Oregon. They last made contact with family members April 5, saying they would visit them in San Jose, Calif., April 6 on their way back home to Santa Clarita, Calif.

The Thottapillys never arrived in San Jose, and were not heard from again. Relatives called the San Jose Police Department April 10.

Meanwhile, a witness April 6 told police in Mendocino County that he had seen a maroon Honda Pilot crash into a steep embankment and fall into the Eel River in Leggett. The Thottapillys were driving a maroon Honda Pilot.

Search and rescue operations immediately were undertaken, but were hampered by the depth of the rain-flooded river. On April 10 and 11, a multi-agency search and rescue Swift Water Rescue Team used a probe to identify the still submerged vehicle.

The MCSO reported April 12 that items believed to belong to the missing family have been found, along with a piece of the Honda Pilot.

“Between the two search days the teams were able to cover approximately 12 miles of river bank. The teams were unsuccessful in locating the vehicle or any occupants from the vehicle,” reported the MCSO.  “They were able to locate numerous items that appeared to have come from a vehicle body and interior.  Some of these items were consistent with a Honda vehicle.” 

“Also located were various personal items that were consistent with a family traveling on vacation.  Several items have been positively identified, by family members, as belonging to the Thottapilly family.  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,” reported the MCSO.

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