The search for an Indian American family from Southern California, who went missing April 5 as they returned home from a spring break vacation in Oregon, is continuing as several law enforcement agencies together are trying to retrieve a submerged vehicle from the rain-soaked Eel River, near Leggett, in Northern California.
Sandeep Thottapilly and his wife Soumya Somanath, along with their two children Sidhant, 12, and Saachi, 9, last made contact on April 5 with family members in San Jose, Calif., and let them know they would visit the following day on their way back to their home in Santa Clarita, Calif.
When the Thottapillys had not shown up on April 8, Soumya’s relatives called the San Jose Police Department, Officer Gina Teeporten told India-West. The family member told police he had not heard from the Thottapillys since April 6, which was unusual for the family.
A witness called police to saw he had seen a vehicle slide over a steep embankment on the afternoon of April 6. Mendocino County Sheriff Department Captain Gregory Van Patten told India-West on April 11 afternoon: “It is unknown who the vehicle belongs to at this time and we have been unable to retrieve the vehicle.”
“There has been no person(s) found or recovered associated with this incident,” said Van Patten.
Search crews from multiple local law enforcement agencies have been trying to retrieve the vehicle, including the Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue; the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Boat Team; the California Highway Patrol Helicopter based in Redding, California; the Piercy Fire Department; the Leggett Valley Fire Department; the Swift Water Component Teams; the Little Lake Fire Department, the Ukiah Valley Fire Department, and the Hopland Fire Department.
“Once the vehicle is located then a recovery plan will be developed to safely remove the vehicle from the Eel River,” noted Van Patten in the press statement.
The California Highway Patrol reported April 6 that a witness had seen a vehicle go over the side of a steep embankment on US-101, south of Dora Creek in Northern Mendocino County. The vehicle has been submerged in the water ever since, reported the CHP.
Meanwhile, Sandeep Thottapilly’s father, Babu Subramaniam Thottapilly, who lives in Surat, Gujarat, has taken to Twitter to plead for help from Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. “Respected Sushma Swaraj ji, I am a senior citizen and resident of Surat, Gujarat. My son Sandeep Thottapilly is residing in California, USA. He and his family are reported missing since last Thursday,” said Thottapilly in an April 9 tweet.
“Would request your good office to take up this matter with concerned authorities in USA and help find my son and his family as soon as possible,” said the tweet from Thottapilly.
"I am in constant touch with our Consulate in San Francisco. They are coordinating with the Police. Rest assured. We will spare no effort," Swaraj tweeted April 11.
The elder Thottapilly told the Times of India, "Before they drove into a national park area, my daughter-in-law called up a relative in the U.S. to say perhaps they would be no mobile connectivity inside the area but would call up in half an hour's time. But from then, neither did they call nor could they be contacted by some of our family members in the U.S.”
Sandeep’s brother Sachin, who has come from Mississauga, Ontario, in Canada, to help search for the family, could not be reached for comment. Soumya’s family in San Jose could not be located.
The Indian American community has also joined the search. World Malayalee Federation General Secretary vice-chairperson Annie in New York posted a 'Community Action Call' on Twitter asking people to help find the missing family.
A poster is also circulating over social media asking anyone with information about the incident to call police or (813) 616-3091.
Sandeep Thottapilly is a vice president at Union Bank in Los Angeles, Calif.