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Missing Family May Have Crashed Into Rain-Swollen River

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- The search for a missing Southern California family who vanished while on a Spring break road trip focused on a stretch of the Eel River near Leggett where an SUV was seen plunging into the rain-swollen waters during last week's storm.

California Highway Patrol Officer William Wunderlich told The Signal newspaper in the family's hometown of Santa Clarita that there had been a report of an SUV crashing into the river last Friday.

At the time, the region was being inundated by rain from a potent storm front.

"The vehicle was completely submerged in the river due to the heavy rain," he told the paper. "We are working on finding the vehicle but we are not able to locate it."

Wunderlich said the vehicle that crashed into the river was similar to the Thottapilly family's SUV.

In the accident report, the CHP said that "upon the arrival of emergency personnel, the involved vehicle was completely submerged in the Eel River."

The California Highway Patrol, Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue, Piercy Volunteer Fire, and Leggett Volunteer Fire Department all responded to the scene to assist in the search.

However, due to the strong river current and the poor clarity, the vehicle was unable to be located.

The CHP and emergency personnel have continuously searched and monitored the river in attempts to locate the vehicle. CHP has also utilized its helicopter in attempts to locate the vehicle.

San Jose Police Department Officer Gina Tepoorten said Sandeep Thottapilly and his family never arrived as planned at a relative's San Jose house on Friday.

In an email to KPIX 5, Tepoorten said her agency got a call from a family member wanting to make a missing person's report. The Thottapilly family was traveling from Portland to their home in Santa Clarita with a stop in San Jose along the way.

"The family never made it to their destination and have not been heard or seen from since Thursday," the email said.

According to a missing persons post on social media by familymembers, the last contact with Sandeep Thottapilly was in the Klamath-Redwood National Park area.

Sandeep was traveling with his wife -- Soumya -- and children 12-year-old Siddhant and 9-year-old Saachi.

Family members said the Thottapillys were traveling in a maroon 2016 Honda Pilot with California license plate number of 7MMX138.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Warren said threy were working to obtain search warrants for cellphone carriers to see where the family members' phones last pinged.

If you have information about the missing family you are asked to call 813-616-3091 or Detective Michelle Zanato with the San Jose Police Departments' Missing Person's Unit at 408-277-4786.

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