Since the identification of the body is pending, the four members of the family – Sandeep, 42, a banking executive; his wife, Soumya, 38; and their children, Siddhant, 12, and Saachi, 9, are still considered missing. The autopsy is scheduled for next week.
It was the second time in a month that rescuers in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco, have searched for a missing family after a vehicle sank in the water. In the previous crash, it was believed that the Hart family had died when their vehicle passed over a cliff and entered the Pacific Ocean. The bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart and three of their six adopted children were recovered. The whereabouts of the other three teenagers are unknown, although a corpse believed to have been one of them was found last week.
In the latter case, the Thottapilly family made a road trip from their home in Santa Clarita, California. to Oregon for spring break. Upon their return on April 5, they spoke of plans to stop and visit relatives in San Jose the next day, the San Jose Police Department said in a statement.
But they never made it, and it was the last thing they knew about them, police said.
On April 8, family members in San José contacted the police department and officially reported the family's disappearance, telling authorities that the family had been traveling from Portland.
Known and anxious family members shared online information about the Thottapilly family, their smiling faces sprouting from posters of missing people. The Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, said on Wednesday that she had been in contact with the consulate of her country in San Francisco after Mr. Thottapilly's father, who lives in Gujarat, a been in western India, he asked for his help.
Investigators began to examine the possibility that the disappearance could be related to a report that the highway patrol received a vehicle plummeting on the Eel River on April 6 from the US 101, a north-south highway that crosses the state of Washington, Oregon and California.
But the river had become swollen and fast after stormy days, and at first the rescuers could not register it. The California Highway Patrol said this week that a submerged vehicle had been seen but then got lost in the current.
Fast waters meant a slow search. Some pieces of burgundy plastic, believed to be part of a side window, surfaced this week, but authorities hesitated to say whether they belonged to the Honda Pilot of the same color.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, rescue teams pressed with a search along the riverfront, said the local branch of the highway patrol in Garberville. They used an underwater probe to see if the vehicle or any metallic element could be located. They deployed boats or used flotation devices to explore under hanging trees or narrow areas not accessible by boat.
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office also helped, using a sonar system.
They made progress in about 12 miles of the riverfront during two days of searching.
On Thursday, the highway patrol said the recovered items – the vehicle parts and personal items – were confirmed by family members as belonging to the Thottapillys.
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