Bodies of Father and Daughter Recovered With Thottapilly Vehicle

Tow trucks used to pull up the Thottapilly family's vehicle

Tow trucks used to pull up the Thottapilly family’s vehicle. [Photo by Talia Rose]

Press release from the Mendocino Sheriff’s Department:

On 04-15-2018 approximately 70 searchers were continuing Search & Rescue efforts on the Eel River in Leggett, California.

The search consisted of 21 water searchers which included 2 Jet Ski teams, 2 Boat teams and several Kayak/Carlson board teams.

At approximately 11:30 AM a boating team noticed a gasoline smell emitting from the water approximately 1/2 mile north of the reported crash site (down stream).  The searchers began to probe the water and located a vehicle submerged approximately 4-6 feet beneath the water.

Search divers entered the water and were able to feel what they believed to be a person inside of the vehicle.  Visibility was extremely poor and divers noted the vehicle was encased in a large amount of sediment from the river current.

Recovery efforts continued for several hours and at approximately 6:30 PM the vehicle was partially removed from the Eel River by use of a tow truck.  This provided searchers the ability to conduct a visual inspection of the inside of the vehicle.

Searchers subsequently recovered the bodies of Sandeep Thottapilly  and Saachi Thottapilly from inside the vehicle.

On 04-15-20018 the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division was also able to identify the adult female recovered from the Eel River on 04-13-2018 as being Soumya Thottapilly.

Autopsies are expected to be performed this week as part of the Coroner’s investigation into the incident.

Another search operation will be conducted on 04-16-2018 in and around the Eel River in an attempt to locate Siddhant Thottapilly who still remains missing.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the following public safety agencies who assisted in the 04-15-2018 search:

Marin County Fire Department
Southern Marin Fire Department
Kentfield Fire District
Hopland Fire Department
Rescue Solutions
Piercy Volunteer Fire Department
Leggett Volunteer Fire Department
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office
Humboldt County Search & Rescue
Napa County Search & Rescue
Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue Team
Little Lake Fire District
Mendocino County Search & Rescue
California Highway Patrol
Graton Fire Department
Santa Rosa Fire Department
Sonoma Valley Fire Department
Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
Shasta County Search & Rescue

Thottapilly family

A photo of 38-year-old Soumya, 12-year-old Siddhant, 9-year-old Saachi, and 42-year-old Sandeep Thottapilly taken several years ago. [Photo used with permission of relatives]

Morning UPDATE: Searchers on the Thottapilly Crash Scene in Major Injury Accident

UPDATE 6 p.m.: Thottapilly Car Pulled Up to Roadside

Earlier Chapters: 



  • An absolute horror story. I hope friends, family, the search teams, and the whole community can find some peace.

  • Weighing heavy on the hearts of Humboldt. Collectively we share your grief .

  • Please please please let them find the son very soon!!

  • Our hearts break with you. May they rest in Peace.

  • Pinch of Salt River

    Such a sad, horrific accident. May everyone find peace and hopefully find Siddhant so that there can be closure. Hats off to all of the wonderful people helping with search and recovery. May God bless you all!

  • Our neighbors and a truly beautiful family. RIP. Thank you to all involved in the search and recovery. We hope Sidd is found soon.

  • THIS accident really touches me. Most of the others in this area suggest carelessness or chronic stupidity and I look at the stories and thank the Universe I wasn’t anywhere near when it happened.
    This one? My heart breaks.
    Total strangers. Apparently really nice people.
    The Hart family driving off the coast into the sea? They were a troubled and are troubled no longer. The Thottapilly family? I grieve.

    • I hear your pain at the loss of this wonderful sounding family. Yet I have no information to believe that the many children of the Hart family, who seem to have been murdered, were “troubled”. They in NO way deserved their fate.
      Let’s grieve for them all.

  • I sincerely hope that they did not suffer in any way and that it all happened too fast for them to realize what was even happening. This could be any of us- a moment in time that you would give anything to do over. I wish peace to the family.

    • Well said. This could be any of us and our own precious family. One moment that cannot be taken back. Live and love. You never know how long you’ve got.

      • So True…. Sometimes God is cruel. Such merciless end of such a beautiful family.. my heart has been sobbing since the day I heard this news..

  • Wow. That’s a lot of resources and taxpayer money for one family. I cannot help think this is political correctness taken to the max.

    • You are an ass. It is not political correctness, it’s common decency. What the hell is wrong with you?

    • Are you kidding me!!! I knew this family they were absolutely wonderful and deserve to be laid to Rest In Peace together!! Ps if you ever get lost I hope no one looks for you!!!!

      • While I don’t necessarily think this was political I think Johnny was trying to say that this was a lot of resources spent on something where the outcome was pretty much already known. If I am lost I wouldn’t mind people looking, but if I am dead somewhere I would much rather see the resources spent on something else besides recovering my corpse. Pretty unfortunate accident though, hopefully everybody reading this will make a conscious effort to drive a little more safely when conditions dictate.

        • I don’t get what this has to do with P.C. . A lot of good folks trying to bring some closure to the grieving ones they left behind.

        • You might not care about having your body recovered, but people who love you might. A community surrounding you might appreciate it quite a bit.

          • This fascination people have with dead bodies is a hard one for me to wrap my head around. Once someone is dead, a loved one of mine or not, I personally have no interest in the bodily remains. Especially not to pollute the planet by burying them in the ground. Hopefully a cremation is in order.

            • So the dead bodies and vehicle should have been left in the river? Not only is this some disrespectful nonsense, it’s illogical.

            • I’m all for cremation, but not sure why you see that as less polluting for the planet. I don’t think it’s a fascination with dead bodies so much as a way to process grief and to treat the person’s life with respect. It’s a pretty crappy thing to even consider leaving the deceased lying around in random places like they’re just ordinary litter or something. Maybe you should be sure to tell your loved ones to just take you out with the trash or something when your time comes, if you really can’t understand the point of treating the deceased with care.

              • Trust me I have already instructed them do exactly that once I am dead. The last thing I would want them doing is getting fleeced at some funeral place. I personally hope my body is just thrown out in nature so that all the creatures can pick at me until only bones remain. I guess we all process grief in our own ways, but I certainly have no attachment to a body whatsoever once it ceases to be living.

                • I actually do understand your view here, and I actually think it’s even an enlightened one, believe it or not. Unfortunately, most people are very attached to physical matter and the closure that comes with a body “sent off” in a ceremonial way is a powerful one, psychologically.

    • Johnny Reb… how’d you become so damned callous and dark. The Thottapilly family would have helped you in any way they could if you were in need. Glad I’m not you with your hateful soul.

    • Wow, Johnny, spoken like a truly callous conservative – only concerned with money, money, money, & cost , cost, cost. In what world do you live where people wouldn’t try to recover those who’ve died in tragic circumstances in the best way they could to help grieving, surviving family members as well a community? You think people living in that area would be happy knowing the remains were just left behind, with no efforts to retrieve them, if there was a perfectly good chance to? Thankfully, there are plenty of people who do this honorable recovery work, and they’re not overpowered by silly, insensitive people like you.

    • What a horrible thing to say! Many of these first responders are volunteers! I would hope you would expect the same efforts for your family if this were to happen. I hope that is never the case, however. Peace and prayers to all involved.

  • Thank you for the tireless work of the search and rescue team. You are true heroes. Many, many condolences to your family and friends.

  • To the relatives of this lovely family, our hearts go out. May your loved ones rest in peace.

  • Johnny Reb, perhaps write from yr heart instead of yr nether parts. You’ll sound more human. This story is about suffering not politics.

  • Our condolences to the family.

  • I agree with Z. Don’t comment with you wallet, this a family that many will miss. My heart goes out to their relatives and friends.

  • Peace and strength to the family! I will try not to create more sad thoughts as that troubles the departed soul all the more… May there be peace with them, may they find strength wherever they are! Love and Blessings to all the departed souls!

  • Total lack of commitment from the authorities to install guard rails. My heart weeps for my friend and his family. I hope the Govt. Takes note and ensures that something this terrible that happened to Hart family and Sandeep is never ever repeated again.

    I hope some attorney takes this up and sues the government for lack of guard rails and sees that they are installed.

    • I second that. Governments small ignorances lead to such major losses that it is tooo heart is broken thinking about what their family and relatives are going through

    • Do you want to sue the liquor industry too for the fact that the heart lady was drunk when she drove off the cliff?

      • Please stop being so ridiculous, Freedom Club. People, for the most part, choose to drink and they face the consequences of that action. These roads are sometimes the only way to get from point A to B, and their maintenance is the responsibility of the state. Any death due to the negligence of not installing safety features is at least partially on the state’s hands.

        • People choose to go from point A to point B. Life has risks at every turn. I would much rather take my safety into my own hands than expect big brother to herd me around like the rest of the sheep. It is unfortunate to hear you think I am being so ridiculous for sharing alternate view points. Sometimes it is good to be exposed to new ideas. It won’t kill you I promise, but if it does I promise to make sure to look for your body.

          • Lol, I admit, it was harsh to call your view “ridiculous.” I just think that there are (some more) things that governments can do to ease people’s journeys on this planet with the money that they receive from taxes, not in a paternalistic way, but as something that is in the interests of everyone (that is if everyone values staying alive.) It is very likely that some kind of barriers at these turnouts could do something to prevent terrible accidents like this from happening. If lives are saved, to me, that’s worth it. Do you not believe at all in things being done for a common good? Not everything has to be so risky if there are perfectly sensible solutions for mitigating the risk.

            • VR, thanks for your latest comments. You are actually one of the more mature people I have had a back and forth with on this site. I do a actually believe in doing things for a common good at times, but I still prioritize freedom over safety fully understanding that life isn’t always safe. I am not afraid of death, but I am deathly afraid of a world without freedom. I am probably a little sensitive to the society we live in where everyone seems to look around for blame and wanting to be a victim. Every day that I go out on the roads I realize that I could easily be killed and I am willing to take that risk. I hope, but don’t fully expect that people out there will be concerned for my safety and I try to take on as much of the responsibility for keeping myself alive as possible.

  • So sad! My heart goes out to both Hart and Thotapalli family. I truly hope such incidences never ever happen again.

    There needs be a safety railing in that part. We have driven there many times and even in normal conditions it seems risky…Let alone windy and rainy conditions.

  • Very sad story, it started as a vacation trip..

    Hope their souls rest in peace… May god give courage to their near and dear ones to overcome this tragedy. Thanks to the search and rescue for their hard work.

    Hoping that the authorities will install guard rails soon so that it will stop something like this from happening again..

  • May God bring peace to this family. This broke my heart. My heart goes out to their parents and their other loved ones. Was hoping for a different outcome. 🙁

  • Continued thoughts, love and strength to their family and friends. Praying their dear son is found soon.

  • I am sure their souls were taken quickly and they felt only love

  • On behalf of sandeeps dad. Thx to all the rescuers. They done very hard job. Thx to all

  • I worked with Sandeep a decade ago and really shocked to see this message.
    May your heart and soul find peace and comfort

  • On Sunday afternoon I sat with my sweetheart and rested in the sunshine as 4 of the search and rescue team hiked along the river banks at tooby . (Maybe 10-15 miles north of the accident? ) And 2 jet ski’s drove up stream .. I have sent several prayers up for this family over the last week or so but in this moment I prayed to the spirit of the family members not yet found . I prayed that they would be wrapped in light and that their bodies be found so they could truly find rest and passing, knowing the family they left behind will find peace.. I am truly sorry for your lost and continue to pray blessings apon your family in this painful time..

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