Witness recalls SUV matching missing Valencia family's car flipping into Eel River

VALENCIA, SANTA CLARITA (KABC) -- A witness recalled seeing an SUV matching the description of a missing Valencia family's vehicle plunge into the Eel River in Northern California.

Pat Berkowitz said he saw the vehicle flip over into the river.

"The next thing I know, it's on two wheels and I'm going by and it's flipping over," he said.

Candles and flowers mark the driveway along with a flier from neighbors on the garage door of the Thottapilly's home. Neighbors recalled the well-behaved children and kind parents.

"We always stopped and talked with them. They're very sweet people, very nice, and their children are very well-behaved. It's a very, very sad thing to have happen," Joe Romero said.

Sandeep, 42, Soumya, 38, Siddhant, 12, and Saachi, 9, vanished while on a road trip that was routed from their home to Portland and back.

On Friday, an SUV matching the description of their maroon Honda Pilot went into the river. Rescue efforts started Tuesday and continued into Wednesday.

The family is believed to have been in the area the night before when they lost contact with relatives in San Jose that same day.

Romero, who is also a retired fire captain, said based on his experience it can be difficult to recover a vehicle in a river.

"The water is deeper than normal and it's running very fast. Right now, the water is very cold so it's very dangerous for anyone getting into the water to do it until the water subsides some," Romero said.

Sandeep Thottapilly worked at Union Bank and a company spokesman issued this statement: "Our company is deeply concerned and is following closely the news of the search for the Thottappilly family. As we support investigators in their search, our thoughts are with the family and their extended relatives during this difficult time."
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