The jailed father whose four children and grandparents drowned in a van in Hurricane Harvey has told of his heartbreak.
Jason Saldivar, 36, will be released from Beaumont federal prison today with no children to return home to.
Devy, 16, Dominic, 15, and Xavier, eight, and Daisey, six, drowned with their great-grandparents in east Houston on August 27.
Police released a heartbreaking photo of the van after it was found submerged in about 10 feet water on Wednesday in Green’s Bayou in northeast Houston
The bodies of six members of a family – including Xavier Saldivar (left), eight, and his six-year-old sister Daisy (right) – were found in their white van on Wednesday
Their great-grandparents Manuel and Belia Saldivar (pictured), aged 81 and 83, respectively, also drowned. The driver – the children’s great-uncle – survived the accident
They had just crossed a bridge in Houston when their van was swept away by strong flood-water currents. Devy Saldivar (left), 16, and her brother Dominic (right), 14, also died
Speaking from prison, Saldivar recalled the moment he found out when he saw his family on TV.
‘I was shocked. I thought it was a cruel a** joke,’ Saldivar told Chron.com.
‘I really was in shock. I didn’t think it was real. Those kids on TV, that’s got to be somebody else. That’s not my family.’
Saldivar has been serving six months in jail for parole violation. He was charged in 2010 over a case involving majijuana dealing.
His uncle Sammy, who was driving the van, was the only survivor of the tragedy. Jason said: ‘If I was out, I could’ve prevented this.’
It comes after Jason’s father Ric Saldivar, 53, described getting a horrific phone call from cops saying the vehicle had been swept off a road and plunged into the floodwaters.
In an emotional interview with CNN, Saldivar described how he got hold of his brother Sammy, who was behind the wheel of the van at when it crashed, and heard his voice shake.
Ric Saldivar recounts how he found out that six of his family members died after their van was swept away in the floods by Hurricane Harvey
His brother Sammy was the sole survivor, while his two parents and four grandchildren died
Saldivar revealed in the interview he overheard his father tell Sammy it was safe ‘to go’ when he yelled out, ‘You can make it! I can see the guardrail. Go!’
Saldivar added, ‘I can’t see myself doing anything different … (If) dad told me to go, I would have tried to make it of course, like anybody else.’
Sammy successfully crossed the bridge, but once he got to the other side — there was a dip in the roadway. It wasn’t long until the entire family found themselves submerged under water.
‘(Sammy) got out of the van. He didn’t even take off his seat belt, the window was have way open. He just slid out. He grabbed a branch or a twig (while he heard) the kids screaming and crying,’ Saldivar recalled.
‘He kept yelling at them, ‘climb out the back, get out the back door!” he added.
Unfortunately, Sammy was the sole survivor from the nightmare event.
‘I can already imagine Dad holding Mom’s hand real tight as the water rushed in … I know they went to heaven holding hands,’ Saldivar said.
Police previously released a heartbreaking photo of the van after it was found below 10 feet of water Wednesday in Green’s Bayou in northeast Houston.
The bodies of Devy Saldivar, 16, Dominic, 14, Xavier, eight, and Daisy, six, were all found in the back of the van when it was pulled from the water.
Their great-grandparents were also found dead in the front seat of the van they were inside at the time of the tragedy.
Samuel Saldivar tried to save his family from the floodwaters in a van. The vehicle was swept away in the flood waters, Samuel escaped but his family was trapped inside
The bodies of the six family members were retrieved from the van when it was pulled from the water on Wednesday afternoon
Rescue crews removed the van from the water after the floods receded
Manuel and Belia and their four great-grandchildren drowned while trying to escape the van in the rising floodwaters.
Sammy told deputies he was in his brother’s van rescuing his parents and the children from their flooded home on Sunday when the van was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said family members returned to the area on Wednesday once the water had receded.
They spotted the submerged van and notified authorities.
Sheriff Gonzalez said the bodies of two adults could be seen in the front seat.
The bodies of the four children were initially obscured because of the water conditions and angle of the vehicle but they were later recovered.
Witnesses to the incident said that although there were emergency crews in the area, it happened too fast for them to respond.
Sheriff Gonzalez said it was a miracle authorities were able to rescue the driver. He said officers heard someone screaming on Sunday when they were in the area helping to evacuate.
‘(Officers) spotted a man clinging to a tree. They were able to use a rope and really performed a heroic effort getting him out,’ he said.
Sheriff Gonzalez said the van wasn’t visible at that point and was at least 4 feet under water.
‘The water was traveling at about 7 miles per hour,’ he said.
The van was found downstream from where it was initially swept away, according to the sheriff.
A chaplain and the medical examiner were at the scene Wednesday, and family members were standing by as police prepared to tow the van out.
‘They’re very saddened, obviously,’ the sheriff said. ‘They’re struggling with it.’
A GoFundMe account set up to help the family of the dead children was posted to Virginia Saldivar’s page.
Manuel and Belia Saldivar (left) and their four great-grandchildren (right) drowned while trying to escape the rising floodwaters on Sunday