UPDATE: Officials end search for Valencia family after fourth body found


Officials searching for a missing Valencia family Monday confirmed all four members had been found, concluding a days-long search of Eel River in Mendocino County.

“The vehicle was found (Sunday), and it took pretty much all day to recover the vehicle and get the occupants that were in the vehicle out,” said CHP Officer Jason Taylor.

“It looks like there were two people found in the vehicle that they’re working on identifying,” Taylor said Monday morning. “There’s still one person that they’re looking for.”

Mendocino County sheriff’s officials reported at approximately 4 p.m. Monday, the body of Siddhant Thottapilly, the remaining missing member of the Thottapilly family, had been found.

The tragedy began several days earlier during a road trip for the family.

On April 6, 2018, at approximately 1:10 p.m., a vehicle was witnessed traveling off of US-101 in Leggett, California near mile post marker 95, before becoming submerged into the Eel River.

Lt. Randy England of the CHP, along with Sheriff Tom Allman of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department, spoke with members of the media regarding an ongoing search effort for the missing vehicle.

S32earchers entered the swollen river north of Leggett last Tuesday, covering about 12 miles of river bank,  CHP Officer William Wunderlich of the Garberville CHP wrote in an update of the search in a CHP Facebook post.

The Thottapilly family: Sandeep, 42, father; Soumya, 38, mother; Siddhant, 12, their son; and 9-year-old Saachi, their daughter, had reportedly been missing since April 5.

Over the next few days, search and rescue crews and volunteer firefighters located several vehicle body parts, which were determined to belong to a maroon Honda Pilot, the vehicle the family was last seen driving.

On Monday, April 9, the CHP became aware of an overdue family of four, the Thottapilly family from Santa Clarita, who were believed to be traveling through Humboldt and Mendocino counties while on vacation.

By Tuesday, April 10, 2018, other members of the Thottapilly family had arrived in Mendocino County to meet with CHP personnel, Sheriff Tom Allman and Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue team leader Dianna Totten.

On Wednesday, April 11, numerous search resources were used including a CHP helicopter, boats equipped with sonar, kayaks and river boards, in attempts to locate the vehicle and its occupants. Numerous personal items were recovered by search personnel, and with the help of family members, it was confirmed those recovered items belonged to members of the missing Thottapilly family.

Lt. England described in detail the investigative steps being taken by the CHPl officers in order to establish an exact timeline for the Thottapilly family’s trip through Humboldt and Mendocino counties including; obtaining phone records and bank transactions to establish where the Thottapilly family might have stopped during their trip.

Sheriff Tom Allman announced Friday morning that search crews had located a female body in the Eel River approximately 7 miles north of the collision scene, believed to be that of Soumya Thottapilly.

Jim Holt contributed to this story.

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