Searchers along a northern Mendocino County river recovered the remaining three bodies of a Southern California family that were in a vehicle when it plunged into the South Fork of the Eel River more than week ago, Mendocino County sheriff’s officials said.
Recovery divers found Sandeep Thottapilly, 41, and his daughter Saachi, 9, inside the family’s Honda Pilot during a search Sunday, officials said. Divers returned to the rain-swollen waters Monday and found the body of 12-year-old Siddhant Thottapilly about 6 miles north of the crash site, which is downstream, officials said.
The discovery came three days after a body was found in the Eel River — a woman identified Saturday as Soumya Thottapilly, 38, wife and mother.
The family’s maroon SUV was seen falling into the river in northern Mendocino County from a pullout during an April 6 rainstorm. They’d been traveling south from Oregon along Highway 101 when the incident occurred, officials said.
Officials last week determined the vehicle belonged to the Thottapilly family.
On Sunday 70 searchers using Jet Skis, boats and kayaks worked along the river in an ongoing effort to find the vehicle and family.
About 11:30 a.m. a boating team smelled gasoline about half‑mile from the crash site and found a vehicle about 4 to 6 feet under the surface, officials said in a news release.
The vehicle was encased in sediment and visibility was poor but divers believed there was at least one body inside, officials said. About 6:30 p.m. a tow truck was able to partially pull the vehicle out and the bodies were found.
Soumya Thottapilly’s body was found several miles from where the vehicle went into the water. The river was swollen from recent storms and officials had to wait several days for it to recede.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.
For more information on how to get involved or contribute to the project, contact Debbie Mason at 707-473-0583, email@example.com. Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists resources can be found at recamft.org/local-resources.
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