Car parts and belongings of missing Valencia family found in Northern California river


A maroon SUV that veered off the 101 Freeway and landed in a Northern California river last week belongs to a missing Santa Clarita Valley family, authorities confirmed Thursday.

Sandeep Thottapilly, 41; his wife, Soumya, 38; and their children, Siddhant, 12, and Saachi, 9, had visited Portland, Ore., and were headed Friday to a friend’s home in San Jose, Lt. Shannon Barney of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, a Honda Pilot matching the description of the one the Thottapillys were driving was reported submerged in the Eel River, just north of the small community of Leggett and about 225 miles from their destination.


Initially hampered by heavy rainfall, search crews were unable to locate a vehicle, but did find car parts as well as personal items that were positively identified by the Thottapillys’ extended family members, Barney said.

Rescue teams searched the banks of the river and used inflatable boats and flotation devices while probing the water with long poles. Barney said the sheriff’s office also used its jetboat, which has a sonar system.

The Thottapillys, who were driving a maroon 2016 Honda Pilot with the California license plate 7MMX138, were last heard from on April 5 while traveling in Klamath, a community in Del Norte County.

Relatives of the Valencia family filed a missing persons report Sunday.

According to his social media accounts, Sandeep Thottapilly is a vice president at Union Bank.

California Highway Patrol Officer William Wunderlich said debris found where the SUV was spotted falling from the 101 Freeway could indicate some sort of impact. Small plastic pieces believed to be from the vehicle were recovered.


Wunderlich said that the stretch of highway that runs through the rural area gets particularly windy and that the embankment is heavily forested and drops 50 to 100 feet down.

Anyone with information is asked to call the San Jose Police Department’s missing persons unit at (408) 277-4786.