Vehicle fell in California river in region where family
LEGGETT, Calif. (AP) — A vehicle fell into a rain-swollen river and vanished last week in the same region of California’s far north coast where a family that vanished during a road trip is last known to have been, authorities said.
Mendocino County sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney told The Press-Democrat of Santa Rosa that officials will launch a search of the south fork of the Eel River once water levels drop and the flow slows.
Witnesses reported a newer-model maroon vehicle, possibly a Honda Pilot, went into the river about 1 p.m. Friday, said California Highway Patrol Officer William Wunderlich. The vehicle was southbound on U.S. 101, pulled into a turnout and went over the side and into the river.
Four members of the Thottapilly family have been missing since last week while traveling from Portland, Oregon, to their home in Santa Clarita, California, the San Jose Police Department said in an email to The Associated Press.
A relative who had been expecting them in San Jose on Friday reported them missing on Sunday.
“The family never made it to their destination and have not been heard or seen from since Thursday,” the statement said.
Police identified their vehicle as a maroon or burgundy 2016 Honda Pilot with license plates 7MMX138.
A “missing” poster shared by friends and family on Facebook identified the Thottapilly family members as 42-year-old Sandeep, 38-year-old Soumya, 12-year-old Siddhanty and 9-year-old Saachi.
The poster said their last known location was the “Klamath-Redwood National Park area.”
The Klamath River and a string of state and federal redwood parks lie along U.S. 101 to the north of where the vehicle was seeing falling into the Eel River. A powerful storm late last week dropped 2 to 5 inches (5 to 12.7 centimeters) of rain in the region.
Farther south along the Mendocino County coast, authorities continue to look for members of a family missing since an SUV made a deadly and possibly intentional plunge off a towering ocean bluff along State Route 1 last month.
Sarah and Jennifer Hart and their six adopted children were believed to be in the family’s SUV at the time. Five bodies were found March 26 near Mendocino, a few days after Washington state authorities began investigating the Harts for possible child neglect, but three of their children were not immediately recovered from the scene along the shoreline.
A body was pulled out of the surf on Saturday but its identity was not immediately identified.