LEGGETT (CBSLA/CBS SF) — Searchers scouring a Northern California river may have located parts of an SUV belonging to a Santa Clarita family of four missing since last week.
The Thottapilly family were on a spring break road trip from Portland to San Jose when they lost contact with relatives on Thursday, April 5.
The family was last heard from near the Oregon-California border, possibly near the Northern California community of Klamath or in the Redwood National and State Parks. They were driving a maroon-colored Honda Pilot.
A California Highway Patrol spokesperson said an SUV matching the description of the Pilot may have been swept into the Eel River off Highway 101, north of the town of Leggett in rural Mendocino County, during the storm that hit Northern California last week.
On Wednesday, teams searching the murky, swollen Eel River may have located parts of the family’s Honda Pilot, CHP Officer William Wunderlich said.
The parts were located along the banks of the river. Local authorities searched the river with both boats and a helicopter.
The family didn’t arrive for a scheduled stopover at a relative’s house in San Jose April 6. By Sunday, April 8, relatives had reported the family missing to San Jose police and an alert was sent out.
“The vehicle was completely submerged in the river due to the heavy rain,” CHP Officer William Wunderlich told CBS San Francisco Tuesday. “We are working on finding the vehicle but we are not able to locate it.”
Runoff from the heavy downpours at the crash scene made going into the river on Friday extremely dangerous.
“The water levels rose very rapidly Friday afternoon,” Wunderlich said. “The water current was very strong that day along with the clarity of the river — it was hard to see through because of all the added mud and debris.”
In Santa Clarita, meanwhile, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators were working to obtain search warrants for cellphone carriers to see where the family members’ phones last pinged.
The missing Thottapilly family consists of 42-year-old Sandeep, his 38-year-old wife Soumya and their children, 12-year-old Siddhant and 9-year-old Saachi.
Saachi attends Meadows Elementary School in Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Valley Signal newspaper reports. Siddhant graduated from Meadows last year.