Officials investigating possible link between missing California family and car that crashed in river

KTLA — Friends and relatives are asking for help in an ongoing search for a family of four from Valencia who left on a spring break road trip late last month but hasn’t been seen or heard from in several days, and now authorities are looking whether their vehicle went into a rain-swollen river in Mendocino County.

Sandeep Thottapilly, 42, took his family up the West Coast on a trip to Portland, Oregon, on March 30. They were planning to stop in San Jose on their way back, but contact was lost with them on Thursday, April 5, according to a missing persons notice posted on social media.

They were last known to be in the "Klamath - Redwood National Park area," the flyer stated. Klamath is an unincorporated area in Del Norte County, north of Redwood National and State Parks in far northwest California.

California family missing after going on road trip

6 PHOTOS
California family that went missing after going on road trip
See Gallery
California family that went missing after going on road trip
(Photo: KTLA)
(Photo: KTLA)
(Photo: KTLA)
(Photo: KTLA)
(Photo: KTLA)
(Photo: KTLA)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Thottapilly was traveling with his wife Soumya, 38, and the couple’s two children, 12-year-old Siddhant and his 9-year-old sister Saachi.

The Thottapillys were expected to arrive at a family member's home in San Jose on Friday, April 6, but never showed up, San Jose Police Department Officer Gina Tepoorten said.

On Sunday, the family member called police to report them missing.

The family was traveling in a 2016 Maroon Honda Pilot with a California plate of 7MMX138.

On Tuesday, authorities were investigating whether the family was linked to a similar vehicle that went into the Eel River in Mendocino County about 1 p.m. April 6, when a massive storm swamped much of Northern California.

A vehicle believed to be a newer-model maroon Honda Pilot went over the edge of Highway 101 at mile marker 95, but the automobile hasn't been recovered due to continued difficult conditions on the river, California Highway Patrol Officer William Wunderlich told KTLA.

The vehicle went into the water after pulling over into a turnout near Leggett and then going over the side, Wunderlich told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

CHP was coordinating recovery efforts, but the vehicle hadn't been found by Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, investigators were working to obtain search warrants for cellphone carriers to see where the family members’ phones last pinged, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy said. They were also checking to see if the vehicle was equipped with a locating system.

The father of Sandeep Thottapilly reached out for help from Union Bank, where he says his son is the vice president.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station tweeted Tuesday that they were also on the lookout for the missing family and would be providing updates.

Related: Hart family and the California cliff crash investigation

11 PHOTOS
Hart family and the California cliff crash investigation
See Gallery
Hart family and the California cliff crash investigation

MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA. – The California Highway Patrol (CHP), in conjunction with Sheriff Thomas Allman, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and other allied agency partners throughout Washington and Oregon is continuing an active search for missing children, Hannah Hart, age 16, Devonte Hart, age 15, and Sierra Hart, age 12.

Based upon the investigation to date, it is believed the Hart family was in or around the Newport, Oregon area around 8:15am on Saturday morning, March 24, 2018. It is believed they continued south along US 101 until they reached State Route 1 in Legget, California. The family traveled south along State Route 1 until they reached the Fort Bragg area in Mendocino County around 8:00pm on Saturday evening, March 24, 2018. The family remained in the Fort Bragg, Cleone areas until approximately 9:00pm on Sunday evening, March 25, 2018. (The below map provided is the approximate route of travel.) There is no further information at this time regarding the whereabouts of the Hart Family immediately preceding the incident.

03/25/2018 at 8:05am, Jennifer Hart at the Safeway in Fort Bragg Ca. (see Photo)
Anyone with known information pertaining to the families route of travel, places where they stopped, may have come into contact with or have any information regarding the Hart Family are asked to call the California Highway Patrol – Ukiah Area office at (707) 467-4000 or the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 463-4086.

(Photo: CHP Ukiah)
The terrain is especially rugged along this section of the Mendocino coastline. We greatly appreciate the help of… https://t.co/zCZFqHqxBq
The search for the remaining 3 members of the #HartFamily continues https://t.co/1dujCrAii9
Thank you to all the agencies, staff (both paid and volunteer) for helping in today's efforts on the Mendocino Coas… https://t.co/tFqpveFyPi

MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA. – The California Highway Patrol (CHP), in conjunction with Sheriff Thomas Allman, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and other allied agency partners throughout Washington and Oregon is continuing an active search for missing children, Hannah Hart, age 16, Devonte Hart, age 15, and Sierra Hart, age 12.

Based upon the investigation to date, it is believed the Hart family was in or around the Newport, Oregon area around 8:15am on Saturday morning, March 24, 2018. It is believed they continued south along US 101 until they reached State Route 1 in Legget, California. The family traveled south along State Route 1 until they reached the Fort Bragg area in Mendocino County around 8:00pm on Saturday evening, March 24, 2018. The family remained in the Fort Bragg, Cleone areas until approximately 9:00pm on Sunday evening, March 25, 2018. (The below map provided is the approximate route of travel.) There is no further information at this time regarding the whereabouts of the Hart Family immediately preceding the incident.

The family was traveling in a 2003 GMC Yukon LX with black rims. Similar to this vehicle in this photo (Not actual vehicle). 

Anyone with known information pertaining to the families route of travel, places where they stopped, may have come into contact with or have any information regarding the Hart Family are asked to call the California Highway Patrol – Ukiah Area office at (707) 467-4000 or the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 463-4086.

(Photo: CHP Ukiah)
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office posted on social media thanking a number of agencies for helping in the search efforts for the three Hart children

(Photo: Mendocino County Sheriff's Office)

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office posted on social media thanking a number of agencies for helping in the search efforts for the three Hart children

(Photo: Mendocino County Sheriff's Office)

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office posted on social media thanking a number of agencies for helping in the search efforts for the three Hart children

(Photo: Mendocino County Sheriff's Office)

NOW: Search & Rescue teams are looking in between large rocks along the Mendocino County shoreline for any sign of… https://t.co/oaR7w3VxI8
I talked to a close friend of the Hart family. She said the family was loving and she thinks they may have misjudge… https://t.co/aEsAc7bgEP
A close friend of the Hart family tells me there was nothing but love in their home. Also says all six of the kids… https://t.co/Fs5D88uiH0
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Matt Lemus, the family’s neighbor, said there has been no activity at the home since the family left on March 30.

He added that surveillance video from that day shows the mother and daughter outside, and later, the family van pulling out of the driveway.

Another neighbor, Pattie McCormick, is hoping for the best.

“They’re good people. I hope they find them,” she said. “I just hope they’re lost. They went on a road trip and maybe they’re lost. I’ve been lost.”

Candles and flowers marked the family's Valencia driveway Tuesday night as community members gathered outside their home for a prayer service.

“We’re praying for the family, for their family, we’re praying for ourselves," neighbor Lynn McTaggart said. "And I’ll tell you what, this has brought our neighborhood together.”

Anyone with information was asked to contact their local authorities or dial 813-616-3091.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.