The tragic tale of a Missouri man who tried to save his aging parents and four young relatives from Hurricane Harvey, only to see them drown, took a new turn Tuesday.
Abraham Quintanilla, the father of the late Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez, disclosed in a Facebook post that the six who died were distant relatives.
The Aug. 28 Facebook post, reported Tuesday by billboard.com, told how Manuel Saldivar, 84, his wife, Belia, 81, and their four great-grandchildren, Daisy, 6, Xavier, 8, Dominique, 14, and Devy Saldivar, 16, drowned in a van while trying to head toward safety.
Samuel Saldivar of Osage Beach, Mo., had driven the borrowed van hundreds of miles to Houston in an attempt to rescue his relatives from their home and bring them to higher ground.
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His parents and four great-nieces and -nephews perished when the van was swept from a roadway and into a bayou. Samuel Saldivar was able to escape through a driver-side window as the van slipped beneath the water with his relatives trapped inside.
In his Facebook post, Abraham Quintanilla wrote, “When they cross a bridge a wave of water swept the van and push them in to the bayou the driver was saved but manuel and his wife and 4 grandkids drowned. Manuels mother Carolina Was my father’s 1st cousin. My condolences to their family…”
Selena Quintanilla-Perez was murdered in 1995 at age 23.
Ric Saldivar, Samuel Saldivar’s brother, told CNN last week that Samuel “is still blaming himself for the accident.”
“He could hear the kids screaming,” Ric Saldivar said. Samuel Saldivar, clinging to a branch after he escaped, tried to direct the children to the van’s back door, but they couldn’t reach it.
“From what he’s describing, I’m sure the kids couldn’t grab even a grip on the van to even reach the back door, much less open it,” Ric Saldivar said.
Virginia Saldivar recounted the harrowing tale to The Associated Press. She is Samuel Saldivar’s sister-in-law and the four children’s grandmother.
“Sam calls my husband and tells him, ‘They’re gone,’” Saldivar told The AP. “That’s when my husband dropped the phone and started screaming.”
Saldivar attempted the rescue on Aug. 27. Three days later, divers recovered all six bodies.
Manuel and Belia Saldivar both suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, according to Ric Saldivar. They would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in October.
Ric Saldivar said the surviving family has tried to console his brother.
“All my family keeps telling him it wasn’t his fault. It was just that, an accident,” he said. “He was just trying to do the right thing to get them out of the flood.”
A GoFundMe account to benefit the family had raised nearly $50,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
The death toll has reached at least 50 in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suggested the state could need $180 billion in federal aid, meaning Harvey may exceed the economic toll of Hurricane Katrina, The New York Times reports.