Houston-area authorities on Wednesday confirmed that they had found the van with the bodies of six family members inside after it was swept away days earlier by rising flood waters.
The four children and their great-grandparents were trying to make the journey from their home to another family member's home on Sunday when they were caught in floodwaters at the intersection of Green River Drive and John Ralston Road.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters Wednesday they located the white van in the embankment near 11400 Ley Road in Greens Bayou as water receded.
At least two bodies could be seen in the front seat, but based on the angle and the type of van with no windows in the back, officials had to wait for confirmation from a police dive team.
"Family is devastated, as we all are," Gonzalez said. "Our worst fears have been realized."
The four children were identified by Ashley Hiser-Jackson, a California-based relative, as Devy Saldivar, 16; Dominic Saldivar, 14; Daisy Saldivar, 6; and Xavier Saldivar, 8. Their great-grandparents were identified as Manuel and Belia Saldivar, 84 and 81, respectively.
The son of the elderly couple, Sammy Saldivar, was the driver of the van, but was able to escape out a partially open window and was found clinging to a tree by first responders. A wire mesh divider between the cab and the back trapped the children in the back, Gonzalez added.
Ric Saldivar described the horrifying ordeal to CNN on Thursday as recalled by his brother, Sammy. He said that when Sammy drove up to a bridge that was overflowing, their father, Manuel Saldivar, urged him to cross it.
Ric said that their father "was really demanding even at 84 years old" and that he would have listened to him too.
Soon Sammy and his parents were underwater but Sammy managed to get out of the window of the van and hold on to a branch of a tree, Ric said.
Ric said Sammy could hear the kids "screaming and crying" in the van while he yelled at them to climb out of the back door of the van.
Sammy then witnessed his own parents and their great-grandchildren drowning in the van before he was rescued.
"I told the sheriff, I said 'I'm so glad you saved my brother.' I just — I didn't want to lose my brother," Ric said as he broke down.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, as the waters in Houston continued to rise, 16-year-old Devy Saldivar wrote on Facebook, "no sleep & anxiety , please let this pass sooner."
On Saturday, before the severity of the storm was clear, she posted:
But as the hours went by her posts both on Facebook and Twitter became increasingly distressed:
"I know that Devy had posted on Facebook, like over 24 hours ago now, and it was in the middle of the night and she posted about being scared, anxiety, and she said, 'I wish this would just stop'," said Hiser-Jackson. "She had her Quinceañera, and you know, it just...It’s just…it's unfortunate because I don't want to ask too many questions at the moment because my aunt is trying to get out herself."
"It's a crappy situation because they're trying to process the loss of four of their grandkids and their parents all while trying to save themselves."
Hiser-Jackson said the rest of her family members in Texas had evacuated their homes and heading to a shelter in the Houston area.
—Tasneem Nashrulla contributed to this report.