Search continues on swollen river for SUV matching missing Valencia family’s vehicle

Search for SUV swept away in rushing river water continued Wednesday. photo courtesy CHP.


The search continued Wednesday just north of Leggett for an SUV that was swept away with its occupants in flood waters Friday, which matches the description of the SUV driven by a Valencia family missing since Thursday.

Two adults and two children of the Thottappilly family were on their way from Portland, Oregon, in a maroon Honda Pilot to San Jose, where they suddenly stopped communicating with family in Valencia.

Searchers under the direction of the Garberville CHP remained at Eel River, just north of Leggett, were still searching shortly before noon on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Gaberville CHP told The Signal Wednesday.

On Tuesday, officers with the Garberville CHP set up  joint incident command center with Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Cal-Fire, Leggett Volunteer Fire, Piercy Volunteer Fire and Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue “to organize continuous search efforts for the missing vehicle and occupants,” CHP Officer William Wunderlich wrote in a CHP Facebook post.

“All available resources are being utilized by searching personnel,” he reported.

“Through the collaborated efforts of all the involved agencies we are working to resolve this incident as quickly and safely as possible,” Wunderlich wrote.

“Rescue personnel will be searching the immediate and surrounding areas and constantly evaluating the condition of the river and the weather during the search efforts,” he wrote on the latest CHP Facebook post.

“On Friday, April 6, we received reports of a traffic collision of a vehicle into the Eel River,” Wunderlich told The Signal Tuesday morning.

The incident happened on US Highway 101 at the Eel River, near mile post marker 95, he said, a couple of miles north of Leggett.

“The vehicle was completely submerged in the river due to the heavy rain,” he said. “We are working on finding the vehicle but we are not able to locate it.

“Based on our preliminary investigation and witness statements, we believe the vehicle was a 2016 or 2017 Honda Pilot maroon in color.

“This vehicle and the missing person’s vehicle are similar but, at this time, we are unable to confirm its the same vehicle,” Wunderlich said.

“We have personnel at the scene searching, as well as CalFire Rescue crews searching so we are constantly evaluating the situation,” he said.

“We’re searching a broad area but because of the moving river it’s a difficult search.”

San Jose police officers, meanwhile, are trying to locate the missing Santa Clarita Valley family reported missing Sunday, officials said Tuesday.

A relative of the Thottapilly family who lives in the San Jose area reached out to police officers over the weekend regarding the family of four, whom were expected to be at the relative’s house Friday.

When the Thottapilly family — Sandeep, 42, father; Soumya, 38, mother; Siddhant, 12, their son; and 9-year-old Saachi, their daughter — never showed up, the relative became concerned and contacted San Jose Police Department.

“They were supposed to stop here (in San Jose) on Friday, which would have been the 6th,”  said Officer Gina Tepoorten with the San Jose Police Department. “The last time they spoke with the family was on Thursday,” the officer said.

“I can tell you for our city, we haven’t received anything that matches their vehicle description as far as accidents or anything like that.”

The drive from Portland, where the family was last reported to be, to San Jose, where they were expected, as about a 10-hour road trip, according to Teeporten.

Saachi attends Meadows Elementary School while her brother, “Sid,” graduated from Meadows last year.

Administrators at Meadows were notified Monday of Saachi’s absence.

The “Missing” poster place on Facebook includes a phone number for people to call with information, and described the family’s car as a Honda Pilot.

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