Classmates of 9-Year-Old Saachi Thottapilly Who Died Tragically With Her Family When Their Vehicle Went Into the River, Raised Money for Local Search and Rescue

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Thottapilly search feature

A team of searchers from one of the rescue groups looks for the missing Thottapilly family–photo of the family from several years ago inserted upper right. [Photo of searchers by Mark McKenna]

[To the Editor],
…  I’m a volunteer with the Humboldt County Search & Rescue Posse. I’m writing to thank you for recommending our group for a donation that we just received.

A couple of months ago our posse, along with maybe a dozen other groups from around northern California, assisted Mendocino County in a search and recovery of a family of 4 who drove off 101 into the Eel River during a heavy rainstorm.

One of the family members who died was a 2nd grader in a school in southern California.  Her classmates held a fundraiser and, on your recommendation, sent all the raised funds to us as a donation to our posse.

Anyway, on behalf of our posse I want to thank you for both covering the story and for recommending us for the donation.  It is very much appreciated.

Phillip Lazzar

Earlier Chapters in the Thottapilly accident: 



  • Instead of naming a section of highway after them or something like that, shouldn’t we petition caltrans to put up a memorial guardrail along that section of road so it doesn’t happen to another family?

    • I know, my son works for Cal-Trans and he told me that the shoulder of the road above the river collapsed when they pulled over to let faster traffic by. Of course the rain had compromised the integrity of the shoulder.

      • What? Why was that never part of the story? That’s horrific. Everything I read blame poor driving or even negligence of the driver, Mr. Thottapilly. CalTrans should be held responsible for their deaths.

    • Guardrail idea, yes….Nice!

  • such a beautiful family full of love.. what a tragedy.. I still think of them occasionally.. muchlove and light to their family and friends.. i hope they can heal and carry on.. it must be very hard.
    and what a great way to help saachi’s classmates get through this.. to focus on saying thank you to some of our local heroes to help work through their grief.. very nice.

  • Mendocino Mamma

    Agreed Kevin 100%

  • That’s a tear jerker. And yes, hard not to think of the family driving 101 by the river. Guard rails should not even need to be petitioned for by CalTrans. Great heart of the school mates to hear about.

  • Awsome job classmates. Tech rescue definitely deserves ANY money or support for the amount of time they put in on this recovery. Remember folks…. they do not get paid for fishing body’s out of rivers…. they are volunteers!

  • These are the things that make me hopeful for our future, thank you to his classmates and all the rescuers. We are so so lucky to have such amazing folks here.
    I doubt any of us will forget this story, &tho it sucks to have to ask for a guardrail it may help to get an online petition requesting one at that spot to send to cal-trans. Or maybe we need a midnight mission of just doing it ourselves, so hum style. Even if its just posts with reflectors.
    It could have been any of us.

  • Such a heartbreaking story and an incredible response fron the children.

  • Thank You Saachi’s friends! That’s so awesome of you all!
    My heart aches for your loss!

  • I think it’s a sad state of affairs when classmates have to raise money for a body recovery that should be done by Sheriff’s dept. This seems like basic government function to me.

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