Six Family Members Found Dead in Van After Being Swept Away by Harvey Flood: 'Our Worst Fears Have Been Realized'
The bodies of an elderly couple and their four great-grandchildren were found after their family van was tragically swept away by Houston floodwaters into Greens Bayou on Sunday.
Manuel Saldivar, 84, and his wife Belia, 81, were driving with their great-grandchildren — Devy Saldivar, 16, Dominic Saldivar, 15, Xavier Saldivar, 8, and Daisy Saldivar, 6 — when rising water from Hurricane Harvey swept them away, family members told NBC News.
The white vehicle was located with six bodies inside, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a press conference Wednesday.
“Initially, we viewed two bodies that appear to be adults in the front seat of the vehicle and we’ve been waiting for additional resources to get out here and investigate further,” Sheriff Gonzalez said. “We were able to retrieve the van and pull it out of water and we can confirm that four other individuals are in the back of the truck.”
The family of the deceased are “devastated,” he adds. “Our worst fears have been realized.”
Sammy Saldivar, the son of Manuel and Belia Saldivar, was driving the vehicle when it plunged into the bayou, his brother Ric told CNN.
Sammy was able to get out of his seat belt and climb through the driver’s side window. He clung to a branch for 45 minutes.
“The water picked the van up, and it was just floating after that,” Ric told ABC13. “It went head first in, and water came in real fast.”
According to the Washington Post, Sammy told Ric he attempted to open the door to let Manuel and Belia out — but it wouldn’t budge.
“He was yelling at the kids to climb out of the back of the van; I’m sure they couldn’t reach it,” Ric told the outlet. “He could hear the kids screaming but couldn’t push the doors open. That’s what he keeps hearing in his head. And the van just went underwater and was gone.”
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By the time sheriff’s deputies came along and threw him a rope, it was too late.
A friend and coworker of the family set up a GoFundMe page to assist the family with funeral arrangements.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Gonzales said that if rescuers have leads on missing persons or come across a body in the rising floodwaters — to report it immediately to authorities.
“If you find a body please call 911 and report it, secure it as best as you can, if you feel comfortable with it,” he said. “Some folks have tied a body to a tree and it’s very graphic to say it. But that’s the reality we’re living in right now.”