Selena Quintanilla's relatives relives the moment she learned six of her family members drowned in Hurricane Harvey

By Stephanie Fairyington
September 07, 2017 04:27 PM

Virginia Saldivar, who lost six family members in Hurricane Harvey, appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 to recount the harrowing moment she and her husband learned that their four grandchildren and her in-laws drowned in a van submerged in the Greens Bayou in Houston, Texas. Manuel Saldivar 84, who’s mother was the late singer Selena Quintanilla’s father’s first cousin, his wife, Belia 81, and their great-grandchildren, Devy 16, Dominic 14, Xavier 8 and Daisy 6 died in the wreckage wrought by the deadly storm on August 27.

Virginia’s brother-in-law, Samuel Saldivar, who survived the tragedy, called them with the devastating news: “My husband answered the phone. When he heard. ‘They’re gone,’ he said, ‘What are you talking about? What do you mean? Where are they? Where did they go?’ Sam said, ‘No, they’re dead.’ And my husband goes, ‘What? Where’s the kids?’ Sam said, ‘They’re gone, too.’ At that point, her husband dropped the phone and hysterically started screaming, ‘No, no, no, no!”

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Virginia picked up the receiver and heard the news with the same devastated disbelief: “What happened? Where are my babies?,” she cried, “No, you can’t be telling me they’re gone. No, where are they?”

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As Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc, Samuel, who was trying to drive everyone to safety, turned a corner and an overwhelming current pulled his vehicle under water. He survived by swimming out of his open window and latching onto a tree. “He said he was hanging there for the longest time, what felt like 45 minutes,” Virginia told CNN, “and then the sheriff’s department came and rescued him.”

Samuel, who’d recently relocated from Missouri to look after his elderly and ailing parents, is suffering from the loss–and survivor’s guilt. His brother, Ric Saldivar, told CNN, “He’s still blaming himself. He was trying to do the right thing to get them out of the flood … and it just happened.”

Manuel and Belia died holding hands as the car went down.