Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Searchers find vehicle in California river, 2 bodies inside

Searchers find vehicle in California river, 2 bodies inside

A search team on a boat smelled gasoline about a half-mile (1 kilometer) downstream from where the crash was reported and found the Honda Pilot underwater, authorities said.

About 11:30 a.m. Sunday, searchers found a vehicle submerged about four to six feet below the surface of the water, and about 6:30 p.m., the SUV was partially removed from the river by a tow truck and two bodies were found inside, according to the Mendicino County Sheriff's Office.

Autopsies to determined the victims' cause of death will be performed later this week.

The family was believed to be vacationing when they were reported missing last week. Searchers found vehicle parts and determined that they came from a maroon Honda Pilot.

Searchers are still looking for the couple's son, 12-year-old Siddhant.

The bodies of Markis, 19, Abigail, 14, and Jeremiah, 14, were found after the accident.

Captain Gregory van Patten of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported in an April 16 press release that 70 members of a search and rescue team had conducted operations over the past week since the Thottapillys went missing.

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Rescue workers have been using helicopters, boats equipped with sonar, kayaks and river boards.

The vehicle was encased in sediment and visibility was poor but divers believed there was at least one body inside, officials said.

Witnesses in Mendocino County - the same Northern California locality where another family died last month after their auto was possibly driven off a cliff - reported seeing an SUV being swept away in a river.

The captain noted that the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Coroner's Division identified on April 15 the body it had found two days earlier as Soumya Somanath Thottapilly.

"It does confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family", said California Highway Patrol. They were supposed to have arrived to visit a friend in the San Jose area on April 6, but they did not make it as scheduled.

Sandeep Thottapilly's parents, Babu Subramanium Thottapilly and Rama, are preparing to leave for the US, according to a report in the Hindustan Times. Responding to his message, Swaraj said: "I am in constant touch with our consulate in San Francisco. Rest assured. We will spare no effort".

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