Belongings found from family whose car plunged off highway into California river

Handout via KGO(SANTA CLARITA, Calif.) —  It’s been a week since a family of four vanished after their car plunged into a Northern California river. The parents and their two young children remain missing, but crews have recovered car parts and some of their belongings, authorities said.

Sandeep and Soumya Thottapilly and their children, 12-year-old Siddhant and 9-year-old Saachi, disappeared on April 6, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said.

The family, from Santa Clarita in Southern California, was driving south on vacation and was supposed to stop in the San Jose area on April 6 to visit a friend — but they never showed up.

That afternoon their car was reported to have plunged into the Eel River, off the 101 freeway south in Mendocino County, the sheriff’s office said.

On the day of the reported crash, a search-and-rescue dive team was dispatched, but the crews weren’t able to search because a storm had caused an unsafe height and current in the river, the county sheriff’s office said. The California Highway Patrol did recover a part from a maroon Honda Pilot — the type of car the family was traveling in, the sheriff’s office said.

Days went by without a word from the family and they were officially reported missing on Sunday to the San Jose Police Department.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, water levels in the river dropped, allowing search teams to use a jet boat equipped with a sonar system to probe underwater with a pole, the sheriff’s office said.

While the car and the missing family were still not found, the crews recovered car parts and some of their personal items. The sheriff’s office didn’t reveal what the belongings are but said they do “confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family.”

Pat Berkowitz, who witnessed the crash last week, told ABC station KGO in San Francisco he saw the car flip over into the river.

“The car kept going straight and it was going off the pavement,” he said. “It’s on two wheels and I’m going by and it’s flipping over.”

Berkowitz said he tried to go down to the embankment.

“I’m yelling, ‘Hello, hello, anyone there?”‘ he said. “It’s horrific.”

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