Investigators are searching for a family whose SUV may have been seen plunging into the Eel River in Southern California on Friday. The California Highway Patrol, Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue and volunteer fire departments have responded to the scene but have been unable to locate the vehicle due to the strong river currents and poor visibility in the area, reports CBS San Francisco.
The Thottappilly family—Sandeep, 42, Soumya 38, Siddhant, 12 and Saachi, 9— were driving from Portland, Oregon in a maroon Honda Pilot to San Jose when they stopped communicating with family in Valencia, California on Thursday. A relative became concerned and contacted San Jose Police Department.
A witness recalled seeing an SUV matching the one belonging to the Thottapilly family flip over into the river. "The next thing I know, it's on two wheels and I'm going by and it's flipping over,” the witness told ABC Los Angeles.
“The vehicle was completely submerged in the river due to the heavy rain,” California Highway Patrol Officer William Wunderlich said to The Signal. “We are working on finding the vehicle but we are not able to locate it."
Authorities believe that the car seen plunging into the river is similar to the one being driven by the family. However, they are not certain if the vehicles are the same.
“This vehicle and the missing person’s vehicle are similar but, at this time, we are unable to confirm it's the same vehicle,” Wunderlich said.
Mendocino County sheriff’s officials will launch a search of the river’s south fork after water levels, Mendocino County sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said on Tuesday, according to The Press Democrat.
Relatives and friends have circulated a "missing" poster on Facebook with information about the family.
The area of the disappearance is the same county that the Hart family vanished, as Fox News reported. On March 26, Jennifer Hart and her wife Sarah Hart were found dead after their vehicle that plunged off a cliff in Northern California. Three children were found dead while three were missing. On Monday, a body was discovered near the site and investigators believe that it could be that of one of the missing daughters. The official cause of the crash is under investigation.
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