Home / National News / Child’s body found week after family’s car plunged into river


(SANTA CLARITA, Calif.) —  It’s been a week since a family of four’s car plunged into a Northern California river, sending the parents and two young children to disappear into the water without a trace. Now, the body of a child, believed to be one of the two missing, has been recovered in the river, authorities said today.

The child’s body was found this morning about 7 miles south of where the crash happened, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said at a news conference. Allman did not say which of the two children was found.

The parents and the other child remain missing. Crews have recovered car parts and some of their belongings, authorities said.

The incident began on April 6, when Sandeep and Soumya Thottapilly and their children, 12-year-old Siddhant and 9-year-old Saachi, disappeared, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said.

The family, from Santa Clarita in Southern California, was driving south on vacation and was supposed to stop in the San Jose area on April 6 to visit a friend — but they never showed up.

That afternoon their car was reported to have plunged into the Eel River, off the 101 freeway south in Mendocino County, the sheriff’s office said.

On the day of the reported crash, a search and rescue dive team was dispatched, but the crews weren’t able to search because a storm had caused an unsafe height and current in the river, the county sheriff’s office said. The California Highway Patrol did recover a part from a maroon Honda Pilot — the type of car the family was traveling in, the sheriff’s office said.

Days went by without a word from the family and they were officially reported missing on Sunday to the San Jose Police Department.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, water levels in the river dropped, allowing search teams to use a jet boat equipped with a sonar system to probe underwater with a pole, the sheriff’s office said.

While the car and the missing family have still not been found, the crews recovered car parts and some of their personal items. The sheriff’s office didn’t reveal what the belongings are but said they “confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family.”

Pat Berkowitz, who witnessed the crash last week, told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco he saw the car flip over into the river.

“The car kept going straight and it was going off the pavement,” he said. “It’s on two wheels and I’m going by and it’s flipping over.”

Berkowitz said he tried to go down to the embankment.

“I’m yelling, ‘Hello, hello, anyone there?”‘ he said. “It’s horrific.”

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