Recovered vehicle debris and personal items confirm that an SUV seen plunging into a storm-swollen Northern California river belonged to a family that disappeared last week in the same county as the Hart family, authorities said Thursday.
The Thottapilly family from Valencia, a neighborhood in Santa Clarita, California - Sandeep Thottapilly, 42, wife Sowmya, 38, their son Siddhant, 12 and daughter Saachi, 9 were traveling through Humboldt and Mendocino County on US-101.
On Thursday, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said it had found belongings of the Thottapilly family, of Santa Clarita, as well as vehicle parts from their SUV about 14 miles down river from where investigators believe they rolled down an embankment. On their return on April 5, they spoke of plans to stop and visit relatives in San Jose the following day, the San Jose Police Department said in a statement. At a press conference on Friday, the Coroner originally said that the body was that of a child but later said that it was an adult female.
The California Highway Patrol said on Friday that Jennifer Hart's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit when she drove an SUV, carrying her wife and six children, off a cliff in Mendocino County on March 26. They used an underwater probe to see if the vehicle or anything metallic could be located.
Anxious acquaintances and relatives shared information online about the Thottapilly family, their smiling faces beaming out from missing persons posters. The search teams were able to cover approximately 12 miles of river bank by foot and 60 miles by helicopter. The items found from the river have identified positive by the family members. Earlier the authorities announced they were able to locate numerous items that appeared to have come from the auto belonging to the missing family.
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Police identified their vehicle as a maroon or burgundy 2016 Honda Pilot with license plates 7MMX138.
The California Highway Patrol has also said the crash is thought to have been intentional.
The family from Santa Clarita have not been heard from since late last week when they were in Klamath-Redwood National Park area in Northern California.
Sandeep, originally from Kerala, grew up in Surat city in Gujarat and settled down in the U.S. over 15 years ago.