Found items confirm van plunged into Eel River

The Thottapilly Family

The Thottapilly Family

The river is still too unsafe for divers to enter, but searchers along the banks found several items consistent with a Honda vehicle.

The missing Thottapilly family consists of 42-year-old Sandeep, his 38-year-old wife Soumya and their children, 12-year-old Siddhant and 9-year-old Saachi.

Recovered vehicle debris and personal items confirm that an SUV seen plunging into a storm-swollen Northern California river belonged to a family that disappeared last week, authorities said Thursday.

"The teams were unsuccessful in locating the vehicle or any occupants from the vehicle", CHP Officer William Wunderlich wrote in his update posted on the CHP Facebook page. Earlier the authorities announced they were able to locate numerous items that appeared to have come from the auto belonging to the missing family. Authorities said they found "various personal items consistent with a family traveling on vacation" during the course of the two-day search.

The Mendocino County Sheriff said during a Friday news conference that the body was found about 7 miles south of where the Thottapilly family's vehicle is believed to have gone off an embankment. The items found from the river have identified positive by the family members.

Swift, high water flow from last week's rains prevented a search by the dive team, but on Tuesday and Wednesday the swift water rescue teams were able to search the river banks and do limited probing underwater with a long pole. "Once recovered the Highway Patrol will conduct a complete mechanical inspection of the vehicle as part of the accident investigation".

According to the highway patrol, 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. They were reported missing when they failed to arrive at a relative's home in San Jose for a Friday stopover. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office also searched with its jet boat with a side scan sonar system, sheriff's officials said. The family was last heard from in the town of Klamath, Del Norte County, on April 5.

The vehicle, believed to be a newer-model maroon Honda Pilot, went over the edge of Highway 101 at mile marker 95. The family was reported missing that Sunday.

Sandeep Thottapilly grew up in Surat city in Gujarat and settled down in the United States over 15 years ago.

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