UPDATED: More Bodies Found in Search for Thottapilly Family

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Washington, DC – The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol, Garberville Area Office, have confirmed the location of a vehicle and recovery of more bodies as they continued their efforts along the South Fork of the Eel River, just north of the town of Leggett, California.

On Sunday (April 15), before noon, a boating team noticed the smell of gasoline from the water approximately 1/2 mile north of the reported crash site (down stream). The searchers began to probe the water and located a vehicle submerged approximately 4-6 feet beneath the water. Although the visibility was extremely poor, divers noted the vehicle was encased in a large amount of sediment from the river current, according to the official updates.

By evening, after recovery efforts for several hours, the vehicle was partially removed from the Eel River by use of a tow truck. This led to the recovery of the bodies of Sandeep Thottapilly and Saachi Thottapilly from inside the vehicle.

Also on Sunday, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division was able “to identify the adult female recovered from the Eel River on 04-13-2018 as being Soumya Thottapilly,” the update noted.

The authorities announced continuation of the search operation in and around the Eel River in an attempt to locate Siddhant Thottapilly who still remains missing.


An inter-agency search and rescue team which has the assistance of the FBI, recovered the body of a child while searching for the missing Indian Thottapilly family of four who are feared drowned in a California river.

At a press conference held in Leggett earlier on Friday (April 13), Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman announced that a child’s body had been recovered from the Eel River seven miles from where the Thottapilly family is believed to have crashed on April 6, 2018.

The officials at the press conference also told journalists, “During the recovery efforts, we are able to locate personal items that have been positively identified as belonging to the Thottapilly family,” adding, “They were traveling South-bound on US101.” On the role of the FBI, the official said, “FBI is assisting in tracking phone records.”

In a 911 call, an individual had informed the authorities of a car tipping sideways and tumbling over the river bank on Friday, April 5th, north of Leggett.

Eel River
Eel River at reported Crash Site Photo date: 04-06-2018 Photo Courtesy of Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue

Earlier, a female body was found on an exposed terrain which appeared to have been 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. “Searchers located the deceased body of an adult female approximately seven miles north of the reported crash site (Eel River flows in a northern direction),” California’s Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Identification of the body is pending at this time and an autopsy is anticipated to be conducted on April 17.

Searchers are looking for the missing family members and their vehicle which is believed to be submerged somewhere in the Eel River.

Eel River Seach Operations
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and the CHP – Garberville are continuing their efforts along the South Fork of the Eel River, just north of the town of Leggett CA Photos courtesy of Rescue Solutions – Professional Rope Rescue Services

“During their investigation the Highway Patrol discovered a possible car part, that was thought to have been broken from the vehicle, at the scene. Through their investigation they were able to determine that particular part belonged to a Honda Pilot, maroon in color,” the Garberville office of the California Highway Patrol said.

According to the San Jose Police Department, the Thottapilly family was supposed to have arrived to visit a friend in the San Jose area on April 6 but did not make it as scheduled. The family was last heard from in the town of Klamath, Del Norte County, on April 5.

Sandeep Thottapilly, 41, vice president of the Union Bank on Santa Clarita, and his wife Soumya Thottapilly, 38, were on a road trip along with their two kids — Siddhanth, 12 and Saachi, nine — in a maroon Honda Pilot from Portland, Oregon to San Jose in Southern California, during which they went missing on April 5.

According to his Facebook page, Sandeep Thottapilly is from Surat in the Western Indian state of Gujarat and was now living in Los Angeles, California. He studied at C.C. Shah Sarvajanik, Experimental School, Surat and later attended Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, also in Surat, Gujarat.

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