More bodies found in Eel River Search in Mendocino County


In a tragic turn of events, the bodies of three members of a Southern California Indian American family - whose maroon Honda Pilot had plunged into the Eel River near Leggett, California as they returned home from a spring break vacation in OR - were found and identified April 15 by a multi-agency search and rescue team.

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.

While 42-year-old Sandeep Thottapilly and his daughter named Saachi was found dead inside the auto, mother Soumya Thottapilly was found in another part of the river. A third body recovered last week was also linked to the family. After several hours of searching near the reported crash site, search teams found the Thottapilly vehicle submerged about 4-6 feet beneath the water. Another search operation was conducted Monday in and around the Eel River in an attempt to locate Siddhant Thottapilly, a 12-year-old boy, who still remains missing.

Autopsies are expected to be performed this week as part of an investigation into the incident.

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A search team on a boat smelled gasoline about a half-mile (1 kilometer) downstream from where the crash was reported and found the Honda Pilot underwater, authorities said.

Officials last week determined the vehicle belonged to the Thottapilly family. "Visibility was extremely poor and divers noted the vehicle was encased in a large amount of sediment from the river current", he said. On Sunday almost 70 jet skis, boats were involved in the search operation. While they were crossing the bridge over the river in northern Mendocino County, there was a sudden rainstorm and their vehicle plunged into river Eel.

The Thottapillys were traveling from Portland, Oregon, to their home in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita when they were reported missing April 8 after failing to show up for a visit with relatives in San Jose. In that case, Jennifer and Sarah Hart and three of their six children were found dead at the scene and three other children remain missing.

Soumya Thottapilly's body was found several miles from where the vehicle went into the water.