Exchange students’ bodies believed to be in car stuck in California river 17 days


FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/WNCN/CNN) — Local authorities in California are consulting with military experts to discuss options for retrieving the bodies of two foreign exchange students believed to be in a wrecked car that’s been in the raging Kings River for 17 days.

“Not only do you have the rough terrain 500 feet down, you’ve got strong water flows through the river at times the winds are gusting,” said Tony Botti of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

The military used a Chinook helicopter to survey the steep ravine and photograph the car.

Bhakapon Chairatanathongporn and Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit, exchange students attending the University Of South Florida, are believed to be trapped inside the wrecked car, which is perched on rocks and surrounded by powerful rapids. Their car is believed to have plunged into the river on July 26.

The families of the students have made impassioned pleas for recovery efforts to go forward, but officials say conditions would make any attempt too risky.

Sheriff Margaret Mims made the following statement:

I would like family members to know that recovering their loved ones is a top priority at my office right now. The Fresno County Sheriff Search and Rescue team has a lot of experience and is currently working to develop a plan that is safest for them to effectively do their jobs. I realize this is a difficult situation and want you to know that our goal is to recover your family members in a respectful manner as soon as an opportunity presents itself. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Authorities believe the pair’s vehicle was traveling on Highway 180 in Hume when it went through a guard rail near Convict Flat for unknown reasons.


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