HOUSTON -- A family of six is believed to have died after drowning in a white van Sunday afternoon while trying to escape the floods of Hurricane Harvey, relatives tell KHOU 11 News. It is thus far the single deadliest incident resulting from the storm.
The victims include four children (all 16 or younger) and their great-grandparents. The driver of the vehicle (the children's great-uncle) managed to escape before the van went under water.
Family members tell us the victims are Manuel Saldivar, 84, his wife Belia, 81, Daisy Saldivar, 6, Xavier Saldivar, 8, Dominic Saldivar, 14, Devy Saldivar, 16.
According to witnesses, the family was trying to get to higher ground when the van they were traveling in hit high floodwaters after crossing a bridge on Green River Road in Greens Bayou.
The van was swept up in the current, and the driver was able to crawl out. He told the children inside to try and get out through the back door, but they were unable to. According to family members, the van quickly sank with everyone inside.
The driver was able to hang onto a tree limb and escape.
Witnesses say there were first responders in the area, but there was not enough time to perform a viable rescue operation.
Authorities confirm they took an official report on the incident, but the vehicle and bodies have not been recovered at this time. Three family members confirmed the story to KHOU 11 News, even as many of them are just learning of the news.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office has spoken to the driver. Spokesperson Jason Spencer said Samuel "Sammy" Saldivar told them he was driving eastbound on Green River Rd. near John Ralston Rd. Sunday when rising water in Greens Bayou overcame the van.
According to Spencer, Saldivar said the victims are his elderly parents and four great-nieces and nephews.