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‘He could hear the kids screaming’ — 6 die as Ozarks man tries to save family from Harvey

Manuel and Belia Saldivar, top left, and their four great-grandchildren: Xavier, top right, Dominic, and Devy and Daisy Saldivar. All six died when their van driven by Missouri’s Samuel Saldivar was swept away by flood waters. Samuel Saldivar was the sole survivor.
Manuel and Belia Saldivar, top left, and their four great-grandchildren: Xavier, top right, Dominic, and Devy and Daisy Saldivar. All six died when their van driven by Missouri’s Samuel Saldivar was swept away by flood waters. Samuel Saldivar was the sole survivor.

An attempted rescue took a tragic turn when swift flood waters from Harvey swept a Missouri man’s relatives to their death.

When Samuel Saldivar of Osage Beach, Mo., learned that six of his relatives were trapped in their Houston home, he drove hundreds of miles to attempt a rescue in a borrowed van.

The six relatives — Saldivar’s four great-nieces and -nephews, aged 6 to 16, and Saldivar’s elderly parents — all perished when the van was swept from a roadway and into a bayou.

Saldivar, who was driving, was able to escape through the driver-side window, but the van’s sliding door was partially submerged and would not open.

Ric Saldivar, Samuel Saldivar’s brother, told CNN 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.

Brock Long of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday called on the people of Texas and Louisiana to "be involved" as the states struggle with the devastating impact of Tropical Storm Harvey. He added that FEMA was anticipating that over

Samuel Saldivar watched as the van sunk beneath the surface.

“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 also 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 Sunday, Aug. 27. Three days later, divers recovered all six bodies: Belia Rojas Salvidar, 81, and Manuel Saldivar, 84, along with Devorah, 16; Dominic, 14; Xavier Adam, 8; and Daisy, 6, according to NPR.

Ric Saldivar said the surviving family has tried to console Samuel Saldivar.

“All my family keeps telling him it wasn’t his fault. It was just that, an accident,” Ric Saldivar said. “He was just trying to do the right thing to get them out of the flood.”

According to the National Weather Service, if the Lake of the Ozarks watershed had the amount of rain that Houston has had, there would be enough water to fill the lake twice.

A GoFundMe account to benefit the family has raised nearly $50,000 as of Monday morning.

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.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

Eric Adler: 816-234-4431, @eadler

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