Child's body found in NorCal river amid search for Valencia family

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The body of a child was found in a Northern California river in which a Valencia family disappeared when their SUV tumbled into the water amid a driving rainstorm, law enforcement officials said Friday.

Officials in Mendocino County said the body was found in the Eel River north of Leggett, about seven miles from the spot where the Thottapilly family's maroon Honda Pilot was reported to have fallen into the river on April 6. Authorities have not identified the child.

The Thottapilly family -- father Sandeep, 42, mother Soumya, 38, and their two children, son Siddhant, 12, and daughter Saachi, 9 -- were traveling from Portland, Oregon, to San Jose when they ``suddenly stopped communicating with family in Valencia'' on April 5. Their last known location was near Klamath near the Oregon border.

California Highway Patrol officials said Thursday they had recovered personal items belonging to the family from the rain-swollen Eel River, confirming that the vehicle that fell into the river April 6 was that of the Thottapilly family.

Officials said Friday that witnesses saw the family's Honda Pilot pull into a turnout alongside the river in the midst of a rainstorm a week ago.

The vehicle slowed in the turnout, then tumbled into the river, authorities said, noting that visibility was reduced during the storm and the driver may not have seen the embankment.

Authorities responded to the river, but while they were unable to search the river at the time due to the weather conditions, they recovered a car part that came from a maroon Honda Pilot, according to the CHP.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, weather conditions in the area improved enough for a search team to enter the river on inflatable boats and use poles to probe the water. According to the CHP, the crews were unable to find the vehicle or any people, but they found more items consistent with a Honda vehicle.

"Also located were various personal items that were consistent with a family traveling on vacation,'' according to the CHP. ``Several items have been positively identified, by family members, as belonging to the Thottapilly family. These items were of a personal nature and will not be described further at this time, but it does confirm the fact the vehicle that was seen going into the river was that of the Thottapilly family.''

Crews have not yet actually located the vehicle. Other than the child, no other bodies have been found.

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