Fresno Search and Rescue team recovers bodies of crash victims

Posted at 1:51 PM, Sep 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-04 16:51:07-04

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KGTV) - The Fresno County Sheriff's Office recovered two bodies from the Kings River believed to be those of Thai students but the remains of a San Diego couple may still be in the water.

Investigators suspect the two Thai exchange students, Pakapol Chairathrongporn and Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit crashed through a guard rail on Highway 180 on July 26.  The red Hyundai Sonata went down a 500 foot cliff and into the Kings River.

California Highway Patrol investigators determined two people were dead in the car with the use of aerial photos. Fresno County Search and Rescue officials could not safely move the wreckage and recover the bodies because the car was in a Class 5 rapids area.  

SLIDESHOW: Car hoisted, bodies recovered from 500-foot drop

On Friday, the SAR team determined conditions were safe for a recovery effort. A deputy went down the canyon to the car and attached it to a manual winch.  The bodies were lifted to the CHP H40 helicopter and removed. Family members met the helicopter at a nearby campground and performed a short ritual.

The Fresno County Coroner is working to confirm the bodies are those of the Thai students, who were registered at University of South Florida.

RELATEDMissing San Diego couple's car possibly found in river

The Hyundai Sonata will be recovered at a later time, said the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. Deputies are also working to confirm that wreckage located downstream from the Hyundai is the Ford Focus which belonged to a San Diego couple.

Yinan Wang and his wife Jie Song disappeared August 6.  Their bodies have not been located.