Items found belonged to missing Southern California family


The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office says recovered debris and personal items confirm that a vehicle seen plunging into a storm-swollen river last week belonged to a family that went missing. Relatives of the Thottapilly family positively identified the items as belongings of their family members, authorities said.

The vehicle itself and the four members of the Thottapilly family have not been recovered from the Eel River, which remains too unsafe for divers to enter, but searchers along the banks located numerous items consistent with a Honda vehicle and interior, and items consistent with a family traveling on vacation, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

A joint press conference of the California Highway Patrol and the Mendocino County Sheriff's office will be held on Friday to answer questions on the investigation, it added. They "suddenly stopped communicating with family in Valencia" last Thursday, and a notice of the family's absence was posted Monday on Facebook as a "Missing" poster.

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San Jose Police Department Officer Gina Tepoorten told KPIX 5 the family never made it to their destination, and no one has heard from them since Thursday.

The personal belongings of a Santa Clarita family of four missing since last week have been found in a Northern California river, authorities said.

In Santa Clarita, meanwhile, Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators were working to obtain search warrants for cellphone carriers to see where the family members' phones last pinged.

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The family, Sandeep Thottapilly, his wife Soumya, 38, and the couple's two children, 12-year-old Siddhant and his 9-year-old sister Saachi, began a trip to Portland, Oregon from their Valencia home on March 30.

Authorities did not elaborate on items that were found in the river this week, but said that a vehicle seen going into the river on April 6, when a massive storm swamped areas of Northern California. The vehicle had submerged by the time rescuers arrived.

The items had turned up over the course of searches of the South Fork of the Eel River over the past two days, the statement said. Because of the high swift waters, no recovery of the vehicle was possible and authorities judged that rescue operations would not be safe.

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A body was pulled out of the surf last weekend but was not immediately identified.