Family missing after SUV sinks into California river, police say

Searchers on the Eel River near Confusion Hill

Searchers on the Eel River near Confusion Hill

Recovered vehicle debris and personal items confirm that an SUV seen plunging into a storm-swollen Northern California river belonged to a family that disappeared last week, authorities said Thursday.

Officials later learned it matched the description of the Thottapilly's maroon Honda Pilot.

A flyer for the missing family.

Before the family was known to be missing, authorities in Mendocino County received reports that a vehicle southbound on US 101 went off the highway and tumbled into the Eel River.

The family was heading home to Santa Clarita from a vacation in Portland, Oregon, and was last seen in Klamath in Del Norte County.

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A notice posted on Facebook stated that the family's relatives in San Jose last heard from the family on April 5, and reported them missing over the weekend after they did not show up for the planned visit.

The California Highway Patrol developed information that the family were travelling in a family vehicle, a 2016 maroon Honda Pilot. After a complete assessment it was determine that diving or swift water rescue operations could not be conducted in a safe manner due to the height and flow of the river during the storm.

On Thursday items found in the river confirmed that it was their vehicle when relatives positively identified several of their belongings.

The Mendocino County Sheriffs Office has been in contact with numerous other county dive teams and technical rescue responders that can be called upon, when the vehicle is located, to assist with recovery of the vehicle.

Family members reported the husband, wife and two kids missing to San Jose police Sunday, two days after they were expected to arrive, the CHP said. The Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol agreed to do continuous evaluations as the river levels receded.

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Swift, high water flow from last week's rains prevented a search by the dive team, but on Tuesday and Wednesday the swift water rescue teams were able to search the river banks and do limited probing underwater with a long pole.

According to the highway patrol, the teams accessed the river in inflatable boats and on "River Boards", a small floatation device created to allow full access under overhanging trees or tight areas not accessible by boat. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office also assisted with the use of their jet boat with side scan sonar system.

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 auto part that came from a maroon Honda Pilot, according to the CHP.

Crews have not yet actually located the vehicle.

On Wednesday, CHP said they located auto parts that may have been from the family's vehicle. "We are working on finding the vehicle but we are not able to locate it".

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The CHP received reports of a submerged SUV along Highway 101 south of Dora Creek about 1:10 p.m. on April 6.

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