Bodies of 6 missing family members found in submerged van, sheriff says

DALLAS - Harris County sheriff’s deputies said a van that was carrying six people when it plunged into Greens Bayou was recovered Wednesday as floodwaters receded, and the bodies of all six were found inside.

A dive team was called in Wednesday morning to begin searching for the missing family members after the van was spotted.

Two great-grandparents, ages 81 and 84, a 16-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy, an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl were found inside the van.

The couple's son, who was driving, was able to escape through a partially open window.

The children's bodies were found in the back of the van, and the bodies of the adults were in the front seats.

Earlier story

The family was trying to escape Harvey when violent floodwaters engulfed the vehicle. The six people inside are presumed dead, including four siblings aged 6 to 16, a relative said.

Virginia Saldivar told The Associated Press on Monday that when her in-laws' northeast Houston home began to flood early Sunday, her brother-in-law Samuel Saldivar borrowed her husband's van and drove to pick up the relatives. She said at some point on their way to safety, a strong current lifted the van and pitched it forward into Greens Bayou.

Samuel Saldivar climbed out of the driver-side window but the van's sliding door was partially submerged and would not open, Virginia Saldivar said. He yelled at the children to try to escape out the back, but they were unable. Virginia Saldivar said her brother-in-law could only watch as the van disappeared under water.

"Sam calls my husband and tells him, 'they're gone,'" Saldivar told AP. "That's when my husband dropped the phone and started screaming."

Virginia Saldivar believes her husband's parents, 84-year-old Manuel Saldivar and Belia Saldivar, 81, drowned along with their grandchildren Daisy, Xavier, Dominic and Devy.

Virginia Saldivar said she lives in the same neighborhood as her relatives, but she and her husband left during a calm spell Saturday to watch the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match. The children's mother had left the four at home, she said. The widespread flooding prevented them from getting home until Sunday afternoon.

She said the Coast Guard told her family they couldn't search for the bodies until the water recedes. Saldivar said she has not yet told the children's father, her son, who she says is in prison for violating parole.

How to help: http://bit.ly/2wYjr4w

Evacuation information: http://bit.ly/2iBU573

Reservoir information: http://bit.ly/2waH9cZ

High-water locations: http://bit.ly/2wdx5hB

How to mark yourself safe: http://bit.ly/2vtykqS

Where to find shelter: http://bit.ly/2xs2Xzb

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Copyright 2017 by KPRC Click2Houston. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.