4 Bodies Found in SUV That Plunged From California Cliff

The bodies of four family members have been discovered more than a week after their SUV plunged into a Northern California river.

Search crews in Mendocino County have confirmed that they have successfully located the bodies of Sandeep Thottapilly, his wife, Soumya, and their two children, who were killed after their SUV plunged off of a cliff and were swept away by the strong currents of the swollen Eel River, according to local station ABC 7 News.

A search for the family had been enacted after witnesses in Mendocino County reported seeing an SUV being swept away in a river. The SUV matched the description of Thottapilly family's vehicle. The family had been reported missing after they failed to meet relatives in with relatives in San Jose.

Last week, search crews recovered and identified the body of 38-year-old Soumya. On Monday, crews located the family's Honda Pilot, which contained the bodies of Thottapilly and his 9-year-old daughter, partially buried in silt and under six feet of water. Later that day, they also discovered the body of 12-year-old Siddhant about six miles from where the SUV fell into the river.

The incident occurred in the same the same Northern California locality where another family died last month after their car plunged off a cliff on California's Pacific Coast Highway.

On Monday, March 26, a highway 1 traveler discovered the SUV belonging to the missing Hart family at the bottom of a 100-foot scenic cliff in Northern California and alerted authorities.

Officials said the bodies of parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart were found inside the car, while three of their children, Markis, 19; Jeremiah, 14; and Abigail, 14, were found just outside the vehicle.

On April 7, vacationers spotted a body floating in the Pacific Ocean surf near the site of the crash. Investigators could not immediately identify the body, though it appeared be an African-American girl's body.

The bodies of Devonte, 15; Hannah, 16; and Sierra, 12 are still missing.

Police determined that the SUV had been traveling at around 90 mph when it went off the Pacific Coast Highway, and they found no skid marks. Authorities now believe the crash was intentional.

"I'm to the point where I no longer am calling this an accident; I'm calling it a crime," Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told HLN.

"Based upon the California Highway Patrol investigation, it is their belief 'a felony has been committed,'" court documents state.

Jennifer and Sarah have a troubling history with their children, which might provide clues in the case.


The couple, who adopted their six children, have faced allegations of child abuse and were investigated by Child Protective Services. In 2010, Sarah pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge involving one of the children. She received a year of probation and community service.

Just three days before the crash, neighbors in Woodland, Washington called Child Protective Services about strange meetings with their children. Authorities could not get in touch with the parents.