Van Found After Family of 6 Was Tragically Swept Away in Harvey Floodwaters
Four children and their great-grandparents were swept to their deaths all at once in flood-ravaged Houston on Sunday.
The van in which six family members were tragically swept away to their deaths as Harvey's devastating flooding gripped Houston has been discovered.
The grim find was announced Wednesday after deputies with the Harris County Sheriff's Office discovered the van in 10 feet of muddy water in Green's Bayou.
It was the very same body of water into which four children of the Saldivar family and their elderly great-grandparents were swept as the van floated off a bridge Sunday while the children's father watched helplessly.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the bodies of two adults had been spotted in the front seat, but that the water conditions and the angle of the vehicle did not allow for confirmation that the bodies of four children were also inside.
Gonzalez recalled his deputies' discovery of the anguished father to reporters at a press conference.
"On Sunday morning about 10 a.m... deputies were out here conducting evacuation efforts, assisting the public. At a distance, they could hear someone screaming," he said.
They spotted a screaming man, later identified as Sammy Saldivar, clinging to a tree. While the deputies were able to save the father, Gonzalez said the van was dangerously out of reach in the swift floodwater and rescue efforts could not be initiated.
On Wednesday, as waters receded, sheriff's deputies were able to get closer to the van.
"We could briefly look into the van and see at least two bodies that are in there. We cannot yet see, based on the angle, what else or if there are any other bodies inside the van at this time. We are working collaboratively with the Houston police department. Their dive team is arriving so we can get a better look and get close to the van," Gonzalez said.
Authorities believe the two bodies they saw are those of the great-grandparents, 84-year-old Manuel and 81-year-old Belia Saldivar.
It can only be presumed that the remains of their four great-grandchildren are in the back. They are Devy Saldivar, 16; Dominic Saldivar, 14; Xavier Saldivar, 8; and Daisy Saldivar, 6, likely perished along with their great-grandparents.
"The medical examiner's office is here, as well. I've spoken with the family that's standing by, to try to update them and comfort them as best I can. We also have a chaplain arriving on the scene," Gonzalez said.
Family and friends of the Saldivar family have stepped up to help them offset funeral costs.
The dentist who employs a relative of the children — Esmeralda, a dental assistant — has started a GoFundMe page to help benefit the grieving family.
Dr. Terri Alani has worked with Esmeralda for about five years and says the whole office is devastated.
"We are all in a group text," Dr. Alani told InsideEdition.com. "I said, 'Who's gone?' She writes, 'They died.'"
Dr. Alani is hoping social media will help ensure finances aren't an issue as the shattered family begins to put back the pieces.
"There are 6 funerals," Dr. Alani said. "That’s why I am doing the GoFundMe... It’s been a nightmare."
As of Thursday morning, more than $25,000 had been raised for the family.
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