Published: Sat, April 14, 2018
Culture | By Glenn Strickland

Child's body found in California river where family vanished

Child's body found in California river where family vanished

The California Highway Patrol said on Friday that Jennifer Hart, who was driving the SUV that plunged off the cliff in Mendocino County on March 26 carrying her wife and six children, had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. They say the items are consistent with a family on vacation and unspecified items were identified by relatives of the Thottapilly family.

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.

Just weeks after the Hart family perished in a fatal plunge from an ocean overlook along the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California, rescuers were searching for another family feared to have driven into water in the same county.

The Harts moved last spring to Woodland, Washington, telling their real-estate broker "they needed a fresh start" after experiencing prejudice in Minnesota and too much media attention in OR after one child was pictured in a viral photo taken at a 2014 police-brutality protest. The family was traveling as a strong storm dumped rain on Northern California.

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

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The Sheriff said that the river was at flood stage at the time of the accident, with the water flowing at 14 miles per hour.

The Eel River on the day the vehicle was lost. Their last known location was near Klamath near the OR border.

The Klamath River and a string of state and federal redwood parks lie along Highway 101 to the north of where the vehicle was seeing falling into the Eel River.

The three other children, who were believed to have also been in the SUV when it went over the cliff, remained missing but were presumed killed, police have said.

Five bodies were found March 26 near the small city of Mendocino, a few days after Washington state authorities began investigating the Harts for possible child neglect, but three of their children were not found at the scene. The body has yet to be identified.

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