Sheriff: Body found after California family's SUV went into river

LEGGETT, Calif. (KGO) -- Rescue efforts have turned into search and recovery efforts after a Southern California family disappeared in Mendocino County while driving to visit relatives in the Bay Area. Officials believe the family's maroon Honda Pilot plummeted into the Eel River north of Leggett and on Friday they announced a tragic update.

Exactly one week after the four members of the Thottapilly family went missing, searchers in rafts, kickboards and on foot were searching the Eel River for some sign of them.

"During the recovery efforts we were able to locate personal items that have been positively identified as belonging to the Thottapilly family," said Lt. Randy England.

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Mystery surrounds the disappearance of a Southern California family of four who were on a road trip and never arrived in the Bay Area.

On Friday morning, searchers discovered a body in the water and investigators are seeing if it matches one of the victims.

Officials originally reported that the body of a child had been recovered, but they later clarified that the body was an adult female.

According to sheriff's officials, the body was discovered about seven miles north of the reported crash site on "exposed terrain which appeared to have 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."

The family of four - 42-year-old Sandeep, 38-year-old Soumya, 12-year-old Siddhanty and 9-year-old Saachi - was on vacation and last seen leaving Klamath in Del Norte County, driving a Honda SUV to visit a relative in San Jose.

It was raining heavily near the town of Legget, when they tried to pull into a turnout.

"They just got too close to the edge," said England. "It was soft, there was grass where they went over."

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It was a 150-foot drop to the rain swollen Eel River below.

Searchers have gone 12 miles up and down in the Eel River and 60 miles by helicopter and still have found no sign of them or their vehicle.

"This river at the flood stage is unforgiving," said Sheriff Thomas Allman. "The search and rescue people on the first day estimated the slowest part of the river as moving 14 miles per hour."

That was fast enough to move their vehicle to an unknown spot.

But CHP and sheriff's officials say they will keep searching as long as they have the resources. They say it's the least they can do for their surviving relatives.
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