As the death toll from Hurricane Harvey continues to climb, one Houston area family is grieving the loss of six of their loved ones.

Posted by Edgar Hernandez on Monday, August 28, 2017

As previously reported by Dearly, on Sunday, Manuel “Sammy” Saldivar was driving his parents Manuel Saldivar, 84, and Belia, 81, and their great-grandchildren Daisy Saldivar, 6; Xavier Saldivar, 8; Dominic Saldivar, 14; and Devy Saldivar, 16, to higher ground in the Greens Bayou area when their vehicle hit dangerous floodwaters.

In an interview with KTRK, his brother, Ric Saldivar, said Sammy had borrowed the white passenger van after being encouraged to get his family out of the area when waters around their home began to rise.

After crossing a bridge, the van hit the flooded bayou. Ric recalled what Sammy told him:

“The water picked the van up, and it was just floating after that. It went head first in, and water came in real fast.”

Sammy managed to climb out of the open driver’s side window and yelled for his family to exit the rear of the van. While he held onto a tree branch he watched as the van was submerged. Ric told KTRK his brother has replayed the moment over and over:

“That keeps playing in his head.”

At the time of the initial reporting, Houston officials said they had not located the van nor were they able to recover the six bodies. Three days later, the Houston Sheriff’s Office has reported that the Saldivars’ van was located in the same river where it was swept away. All six bodies were still inside.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Manuel and Belia Saldivar were in the front seat, huddled together. The children were in the rear of the van. In an interview with CNN, Ric said he believed his parents, who were struggling with Alzheimer’s, died holding hands.

In a news conference, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez confirmed to reporters that the six family members had been found:

“We have a total six confirmed dead. Our worst fears have been realized.”

According to ABC News, when Sammy Saldivar was discovered by rescuers, he told them the van had submerged and was not visible. The sheriff’s office said the van was at least four feet under water that was moving at seven miles per hour. It was only when the waters had receded by Wednesday that the van could be recovered.

Virginia Saldivar told CNN her brother-in-law tried to get around the van, but the current was too strong, forcing him to grab hold of the tree branch. When he called her later, he was like “a robot” delivering the news. He told her the family was gone — all of them:

“He goes ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’ He just kept telling me he’s so sorry. He goes ‘I was trying to do a good thing I was trying to save all of them.’ He goes ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.'”

Ric said his brother blames himself for the accident that took the six family member’s lives:

“He’s still blaming himself. He was trying to do the right thing to get them out of the flood … and it just happened.”

CNN reported that when Sammy hit the bridge, he tried to turn around, but his father, Manuel, insisted he try to pass through. When he got to the other side, there was a dip in the road and Sammy lost control of the car. The van plunged into the bayou. Ric said:

“Dad tells you to do something, you do it.”

In the wake of the tragedy, a GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Saldivar family with funeral and other expenses as they cope with the loss of their loved ones.

As Dearly previously reported, NPR recommends using Charity Navigator as well to locate organizations assisting the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Saldivar family and everyone across Texas and Louisiana.

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