A family of six that was swept away in their van by a strong current is now counted among the 14 dead in Texas due to Hurricane Harvey, Harris County sheriff’s officials said on Monday night, Aug. 28, according to My Statesman.
The family was inside a van driven by Samuel Saldivar as it crossed a bridge in high water on Sunday afternoon. Four children and their two great-grandparents perished, while the driver, the children’s great-uncle, managed to escape.
The victims were identified as Manuel and Belia Saldivar, husband and wife, 84 and 81 years old respectively; Daisy Saldivar, 6, Xavier Saldivar, 8, Dominic Saldivar, 14, and Devy Saldivar, 16.
The driver told everyone to get out of the car—but he was the only one to escape, WHOU reported.
As the vehicle sank quickly in the Green Bayou, rescuers nearby were notified, but the car went down too quickly to conduct a rescue, FOX26 reported.
“Sam calls my husband and tells him, ‘They’re gone,'” Virginia Saldivar, the driver’s sister-in-law, told Fox News. “That’s when my husband dropped the phone and started screaming.”
The bodies of the victims had not been recovered as of Monday night. The Coast Guard told Virginia Saldivar that a search can by conducted only once the water recedes.
Virginia Saldivar also said that she has not yet notified the children’s father about the tragedy. The dad is serving a prison sentence for violating parole.
The children’s school district issued a statement lamenting the loss.
“Pasadena ISD’s heart is heavy as we have learned that four Pasadena ISD students and two of their great-grandparents were swept away by the floodwaters of Greens Bayou while trying to escape the floodwaters of Harvey,” a statement from the Pasadena Independent School District reads.
Authorities fear that the death toll from the hurricane will rise once the water recedes and a thorough search will be conducted, according to My Statesman.
U.S. President Donald Trump headed to Texas on Tuesday to survey the response to devastating Tropical Storm Harvey, the first major natural disaster of his White House tenure, as officials in Houston struggled to manage the record-breaking rains.
The slow-moving storm has brought catastrophic flooding to Texas, killed at least nine people, led to mass evacuations and paralyzed Houston, the fourth most-populous U.S. city. Some 30,000 people were expected to seek emergency shelter as the flooding entered its fourth day.
Officials in Harris County, where Houston is located, said reservoirs built to handle drainage water were beginning to overflow on Tuesday. They urged residents to evacuate as they released water to alleviate the pressure on two dams, a move that would add to flooding along the Buffalo Bayou waterway that runs through the area.
Officials in Brazoria County, south of Houston, also called for immediate evacuations around a levee at Columbia Lakes that had been breached by Harvey’s floodwaters.
Some 3,500 people have already been rescued from high waters in the Houston area with police, firefighters, and National Guard troops continuing to try to locate those marooned in high waters.
“Yesterday the focus was on rescue. Today it will continue to be on rescue,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters.
The storm broke Texas rainfall records at one measuring site south of Houston, which recorded 49.32 inches of precipitation since the storm’s start. The rainfall is more than the region typically sees in a year and exceeds 48 inches recorded in 1978.
Multiple looters had been arrested overnight, police said.
Harvey has roiled energy markets and wrought damage estimated to be in the billions of dollars, with rebuilding likely to last beyond Trump’s first four-year term in office.
Reuters contributed to this report.