Searchers Believe They Have Located Thottapilly Vehicle; Recovery Efforts Underway

Recovery vehicles line Hwy 101 south of the accident site and near the site of the recovery efforts. Thottapilly

Recovery vehicles line Hwy 101 south of the accident site and near the site of the today’s efforts. [Photo by Talia Rose]

After days of searching and only locating what is believed to be one of the bodies of the missing Thottapilly family, today searchers have set up what is believed to be a vehicle recovery area in a hamlet known as Riverdale near mile marker 95.5 on Hwy 101 as seen in the video by local resident Ken Pulling below taken about noon today.

Scanner traffic indicates a vehicle has been found in the water and recovery efforts are underway though officials in charge of the investigation are declining to confirm that is true.

Sandeep Thottapilly family

A recent photo of 38-year-old Soumya, 9-year-old Saachi, 12-year-old Siddhant, 9-year-old Saachi, and 42-year-old Sandeep Thottapilly. [Photo provided by relatives]

Don Roberts, who lives across the highway from the recovery site, said he spoke to one of the personnel and they told him that the vehicle was located in about four feet of water. Rain is coming down though and the river is growing murky which will hamper efforts.

flooding Eel River north of Leggett

Water continued to rise where the vehicle was last seen in the Eel River. [Photo provided by Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue]

The vehicle found today is believed to have been in the water since Friday, April 6 when the maroon Honda Pilot belonging to the Thottapilly family went off Hwy 101 and into the Eel River. Because of the danger of rising water, search and recovery efforts were forced to be put off.

By Monday, rumors washed over social media when the missing Thottapilly family was found to have traveled through the area and was last heard from on the day the vehicle went into the Eel.

By Wednesday a full-scale search was underway with dozens of searchers from multiple different departments and volunteer groups. Throughout the week, the search efforts continued.

On Friday, April 13, a body believed to be that of one of the family was located near Dimmick’s Overcrossing.

The body of an adult female was located yesterday near the Dimmick Overcrossing.

A body was found Friday near Dimmick’s Overcrossing. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

Yesterday, even more searchers covered an even larger area. The Eel River was dropping fast and the waters began to clear to a turquoise green.

Crews continued to search the Eel River Saturday near Confusion Hill.

Crews continued to search the Eel River Saturday near Confusion Hill. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

But rain was predicted today and the crews knew they were fighting to find the missing family and their vehicle before the river again began to grow murky and the water to rise as rain fell on the region over the next few days.

Crews searched a stretch of the Eel River in Richardson Grove. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

A command post set up at Leggett monitored searchers.

The command post monitors the location of search teams.

The command post monitors the location of search teams. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

Teams scoured the area from Elfin Glen to Benbow and points further north.

Crews pass under the Twin Trees Bridge just south of Benbow. Thottapilly

Crews pass under the Twin Trees Bridge just south of Benbow on Saturday. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

The teams spent hours in the cold water looking for the missing family.

Search crews exit the Eel River just south of Benbow Thottapilly

Search crews exit the Eel River just south of Benbow after searching their assigned stretch of the river. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

But yesterday’s search was unsuccessful.

However, this morning’s efforts paid off though with the discovery of a vehicle underwater several miles about a half mile north of the accident site.

The recovery efforts are underway just around the far curve in the river near the white vehicle.

The recovery efforts are underway just around the far curve in the river near the white vehicle. [Photo by Talia Rose]

A command site is being set up at Riverdale.

Personnel set up a tent as rain came down. Thottapilly

Personnel set up a tent as a light rain came down. [Crop of a photo by Talia Rose]

Specialized recovery personnel are arriving at the scene.


A diver at the site where recovery efforts are underway.

A diver at the site where recovery efforts are underway around 2 p.m. [Photo by Talia Rose]

Meanwhile, around 2:30 p.m. at Elfin Grove, near the original accident site, a raft with a four-person crew launched into the river. The water continues to grow muddy and the waters are rising.

As of 3 p.m., jet skis are still looking as least as far south as Cooks Valley for the missing.

A jet skier continues to look for the missing. Thottapilly

A jet skier continues to look for the missing. [Photo by Talia Rose]

We are awaiting more information and will update as soon as possible.

UPDATE 9:18 a.m. Monday: Bodies of Father and Daughter Recovered With Thottapilly Vehicle

Earlier Chapters: 



  • The more I think about this the only thing that makes sense is that they were being tailgated for a period of time. They quickly got off the road to let the other driver pass. They are not from here so they didn’t know the road. There is no other reason for them to have gotten off the road so fast in my opinion. Has the driver that saw the accident been questioned? My Dad used to always say “no one can make you do anything” but still tailgating is not defensive driving.

      • Would the witness describe tailgating a car that then went into the river? I wondered the same thing the first time I read the story. Could also just be very bad driving conditions, but when I’m on an unfamiliar road like that in the rain, I always wait for an extra large turn out to make sure I have time to stop. Making a bad judgement like that could have been the result of stress from being tailgated. 🙁
        Big thanks to the recovery teams and condolences to the family…and to Kym for having to write about it. Such a sad story.

        • Empathy police, where are you when needed? It could have been a sudden appearance of a UFO too. It could have been anything. Implying wrong doing just because it’s possible and there’s not the slightest evidence of it is wrong and cruel.

          • Dear Guest,
            Thank you.
            The continual ‘I gotta be the first to say what is going on’, based on a thread of information drives me NUTS!
            How did our culture, and society get this way?
            How about peaceful compassion for all involved? Is that beyond the scope of human abilities in our era?

    • “No other reason“?!

      You make a lot of assumptions, and have little imagination.

      I can’t believe the wild assumptions commenters feel they have to share. And it’s hard to believe how many there are.

    • Life is good OG

      Stop thinking. It is a terrible tragedy and we will never know what happened. To indicate that the people who saw what happened and thankfully called it in may have been the ones to tailgate is atrocious and uncool. That is what you are suggesting right? Sounds like it. Pray for the family and let it be.

    • Those were my thoughts exactly….

    • He is a respectable 67 yr old teacher, they were not tail gating. If u actually read earlier post. He stopped his car and ran down the embankment to try to help. He and his wife are traumatized from witnessing this misfortunate accident. Give them some respect, this is so sad for this out of town family. It was bad conditions and they maybe made a bad choice of places to stop. R.I.P. this was a beautiful young family.

    • Um, there are many reasons why they could have turned off the road. Who said anything about turning off “so fast”? I think the place where they turned off into was very narrow, the conditions were bad, visibility was poor, etc.

  • Veteran's Friend

    HUGE props to all the searchers. A difficult job under the best of conditions, your efforts in current conditions are truly heroic.
    You are a blessing to our community💖🙏🙏🙏

  • Thank you for being the fine men and women you are, and be safe out there.

  • Great report Kym, wish it was better news of course.

  • At least now thee remaining family can have complete closure on the matter once & for all!!! RIP if possible under such horrible circumstances!!!!!!

  • Might be the vehicle involved? What?

  • Isn’t the vehicle location close to where the mom was found several days ago; seven miles North of the accident?

  • This is such a heartbreaking situation. Thanks to all the awesome recovery people out there. Be safe!!!

  • Wow, such brave men and women. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication. Be safe.

  • They looked like such a happy, serene and beautiful family. The perfect family. Why?

    • Stormy driving conditions, unfamiliar road, treacherous road that have taken many lives in recent weeks…sometimes we just don’t get to know why.

  • Its very sad news for us. But really appreciate rescue team for this job.

  • I saw many different first responder trucks heading in the northern direction this morning on my way south from Arcata. I hope these brave folks are able to provide some answers to the family of these parents and their kids. Makes me so sad. I drove extra careful today with my son in the car, and got extremely frustrated with people jamming down the 101 unsafely. Stay safe out there!

  • I tip my hat to each and every one of you braveheart’s undergoing this search. Amazing photos, amazing searchers.
    My condolences to the loved ones.

  • Thank you to all rescue workers helping to find our friends. This must be so difficult and frustrating. We pray for everyone’s safety and for our friends to be brought home. We wish peace to everyone.

  • Body of thotaapilly family identifyed by sandips brother. 3 bodys found in car
    RIP to family 🙏

    • This is definite information? If so, good for the relatives to have some closure, and also good for the searchers who’ve put in so much hard work already. May this family rest in peace.

    • 3 bodies??? It’s just father and daughter…

  • Much love to the family, friends, and rescuers.

  • M speechless on abt all abt this. Very sad for me.

    • Please don’t spread fake news about this family AKKI. Your comment is false. I wish it were true. We are friends with the Thatapilly’s. We need accurate information only. Their family and friends deserve that.

      • Melissa, it seems to me that Akki is close to the family, considering he had the news before it was reported. He was off by one person, and it was probably an innocent mistake.

      • What a false news dear. I got every updated news from thottapily family. Every news is acccurate one. May be sure u got the wrong news

        • Akki, she was referring to your comment about “3 bodies in the car” when it was actually just 2 of the family members found in the car itself. Your original comment made it seem that the whole family was found, since Soumya’s body had already been recovered before that. At that point, Siddhant was still actually missing. I’m very sorry for your loss, with you being so closely connected to the family. Take care..

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