A woman’s body was found by rescuers in the US during the search of a missing Indian family of four feared drowned in a swollen river in California, officials said. Authorities said they also recovered a number of personal items from the river during the search, and have concluded that the SUV that drowned in Eel river in the first week of April most likely belonged to the Thottapilly family.
An inter-agency search and rescue team in California also recovered from the river numerous parts of a vehicle, “consistent with a Honda” make. The missing Thottapilly family was travelling in a maroon Honda Pilot during which they went missing on April 5.
The authorities, who had originally said the body found was of a child, said an autopsy would be performed early next week.
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, 9 — from Portland, Oregon, to San Jose in Southern California.
They were believed to be travelling through Humboldt and Mendocino County on US-101 while on a vacation, officials said.
“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.
The body was found on Friday on an 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. Searchers are looking for the missing family members and their vehicle which is believed to be submerged somewhere in the Eel River.
A few local media reports said the body was of Soumya Thottapilly.
“Numerous personal items were recovered by search personnel and with the help of family members, it was confirmed those recovered items belonged to members of the missing Thottapilly family,” the California Highway Patrol Garberville area field office said in a Facebook post.
The vehicle is reported to have submerged in the river around 1:10 pm on April 6.
Talking about the items recovered, the California Highway Patrol said, “These items were of a personal nature and will not be described further at this time, but it does confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family.”
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.
The California Highway Patrol developed information that the family were travelling in a family vehicle, a 2016 maroon Honda Pilot.
The family was officially reported as missing to the San Jose Police Department on April 8.
Sandeep grew up in Surat city in Gujarat and settled down in the US over 15 years ago.
On April 9, His father Thottapally Babu Subramaniam, who lives in Surat, tweeted to Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, urging her to help locate his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
“My son Sandeep Thottapilly is residing in California, USA. He and his family are reported missing since last Thursday. Would request your good office to take up… this matter with concerned authorities in USA and help find my son and his family as soon as possible. requesting your kind cooperation. The photo of the missing family is attached herewith. we have taken help of Facebook post to reach out to more and more people in California…,” Babu Subramaniam Thottapily tweeted.
Replying to this message, Sushma Swaraj had said: “I am in constant touch with our Consulate in San Francisco. They are coordinating with the Police. Rest assured. We will spare no effort.”
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had told reporters later the Indian Consulate in San Francisco was trying its best to locate the family.
“Our consulate there has been maintaining contact with the family members of the missing people. We are in touch with the state police department. We are also in touch with the highway patrol. We are trying our best to locate the whereabouts of the family,” he had said.