The sport utility vehicle that plunged into the rain swollen South Fork of the Eel River north of Leggett last week was that of a Southern California family reported missing while traveling from OR to San Jose, authorities confirmed Thursday. According to the CHP, the crews were unable to find the vehicle or any people, but they found more items consistent with a Honda vehicle.
Berkowitz attempted to go down the embankment 15 to 20 feet and recalls saying, "And so I'm yelling, 'hello, hello, anyone there?'" Authorities say the SUV matches the description of the vehicle the Thottapilly family was traveling in, which was a maroon/burgundy 2016 Honda Pilot with California license plate 7MMX138. "Last known location is around Klamath - Redwood National Park Area" in Northern California near the OR border.
Anxious acquaintances and relatives shared information online about the Thottapilly family, their smiling faces beaming out from missing persons posters.
A family of four from Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County) had been reported missing and their travel plans - from Klamath, near the border between California and OR, to San Jose - lined up with where the vehicle was found, Taylor said. A man whose daughter lived next door to a family killed when their SUV drove off a California cliff warned authorities four months earlier that the family's six adopted children were being "highly abused", according to a recording of the man's 911 call. The teams were unsuccessful in locating the vehicle or any occupants from the vehicle.
While water levels at the time the accident was initially reported were initially too high and conditions too unsafe in the wake of the storm for water rescue operations, this week levels subsided enough to allow for a more concentrated search, the sheriff's office said.
On Thursday, authorities confirmed they found auto parts from a Honda vehicle and various personal items belonging to the family.
The teams accessed the river in inflatable boats and using smaller floatation devices. The family member told police he had not heard from the Thottapillys since April 6, which was unusual for the family.
They were expected to get to a family member's home in San Jose on April 6, but did not show up.
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had on Wednesday had said that she was in touch with the Indian Consulate in San Francisco.
On Wednesday, CHP said they located auto parts that may have been from the family's vehicle. The California Highway Patrol said this week that a submerged vehicle had been spotted but then lost in the current.
Since searchers entered the swollen river north of Leggett on Tuesday, they covered about 12 miles of river bank, CHP Officer William Wunderlich of the Gaberville California Highway Patrol in Gaberville wrote in an update of the search in a CHP Facebook post.
In Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Warren said investigators were working to obtain search warrants for cellphone carriers to see where the family members' phones last pinged.