back to top

At Least 70 People Have Been Confirmed Dead As A Result Of Harvey

The massive storm that pummeled Texas has killed a veteran police officer, a family of six, and a retired high school football coach, among others.

Originally posted on
Updated on

At least 70 people have died in connection with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, which battered southeastern Texas for days and left entire communities underwater. The death toll is expected to rise as officials further assess the catastrophic damage caused by the storm.

After days of torrential rains that submerged large swaths of Houston and the surrounding area, the human toll is slowly starting to take shape. An unknown number of residents remain unaccounted for across the region, and social media is still littered with desperate pleas for rescues.

Within hours of Hurricane Harvey's landfall in Rockport, Texas, on Aug. 25, officials there reported that one person had died in their home during the storm.

On Monday, Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences told BuzzFeed News that they had 33 confirmed storm-related deaths, including a veteran Houston police officer, a family of six, and a retired high school football coach.

Two previous deaths that the county had been investigating earlier this week were found to not have been caused by the storm, the medical examiner's office told BuzzFeed News. One of them was determined to have been heart disease.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, meanwhile, set up a updating list of confirmed storm-related deaths here.

Inundated communities across Texas and Louisiana feared more deaths would be found before the water recedes.

First responders in Beaumont, Texas, along the Gulf Coast, recovered a little girl and her unresponsive mother as they floated down a flooded canal.

On Sunday, about a week after the storm struck, officials in Orange County confirmed nine storm-related deaths.

Officials in Galveston County confirmed six storm-related fatalities on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Here's a look at some of the people who were confirmed to have died in connection with the storm:

Perez died when he drove his patrol car "in the darkness" under an underpass into deep water, Police Chief Art Acevedo said, explaining that Perez "drove into the water, and he died in a flood — in a drowning type event."

The 60-year-old officer's wife had asked him not to go to work, Acevedo said, but Perez decided to go anyway.

"This is an individual who was with HPD, Houston's finest, men and women in blue, for 34 years,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters Tuesday. “In fact, he was two days shy of his 61st birthday. And he lost his life on Sunday morning on his way to work."

Jordan had been missing since Saturday evening, when he was reportedly helping people escape high water, according to a blog post by his family.

Jordan was found floating in a tree in flood waters, the Harris County medical examiner's office confirmed on Thursday.

Jordan worked for 30 years as a track and football coach in the Clear Creek Independent School District.

In a statement posted on Facebook Tuesday afternoon, Jordan's family thanked those who had helped search for the recently retired football coach.

"Our family would like to extend our sincere appreciation and thanks for the effort, support and prayers we received while trying to locate him," the post read. "At this time we ask for your continued support, prayers and respect as we grieve and work towards making arrangements to lay him to rest. Words can't begin to explain how grateful we are to be apart of such a strong, supportive and loving network of friends and family."

Jordan's former players, students, and colleagues also paid tribute to him on social media, describing him as an "amazing man" who "truly cared about us."

"This world will miss you coach. You were such a great mentor," wrote Jeannette Gonzalez. "Thank you sir for everything you did for me and thank you for touching so many lives. I'm going to stop crying now because I know you wouldn't like it. Love you coach."

A family of six — four children and their great-grandparents —were swept away in a van while trying to escape rising floodwaters in Houston on Sunday, a family member told BuzzFeed News.

The family was trying to relocate to another relative's home when they were caught in the flooding at the intersection of Green River Drive and John Ralston Road, Ashley Hiser-Jackson, a relative in California, told BuzzFeed News.

The four children were identified by Hiser-Jackson as Devy Saldivar, 16; Dominic Saldivar, 14; Daisy Saldivar, 6; and Xavier Saldivar, 8. They were with their great-grandparents Manuel and Belia Saldivar, who were 84 and 81 years old respectively. The elderly couple's son, Sammy Saldivar, who was driving the vehicle, managed to get out of the van and grab on to a branch before being rescued by first responders.

Witnesses of the incident told KHOU that emergency crews in the area were not able to reach the van in time to rescue the six inside.

Renick's family had been frantically searching for her since the 48-year-old called the hotel front desk begging for help on the morning of August 27, "saying ‘I’m in an elevator. The water is rushing in. Please help me,’” her sister, Pam Eslinger, told CBSDFW.

Renick, who had recently moved to Houston from Dallas to manage the hotel's spa services, was there helping fellow employees evacuate, her family said.

"It is with heavy hearts that the search for my sister, Jill Renick, has concluded with the confirmation of her death," Eslinger said in a statement. "We are heartbroken. To know Jill is to have loved her. She could light up a room just by walking in and adored life. She was loved by so many people, and we will feel the impact of her absence in our hearts forever."

Her body was found inside the hotel, though Houston Police would not confirm her identity. Authorities did say that a body was discovered in the building Thursday morning.

Omni also confirmed that a body had been found inside the Houston hotel and "presume it is our beloved associate, Jill Renick," the company said in a statement:

"We are very sad to report that a body has been found in the hotel. Authorities are on site and we are offering any assistance we can. While it has not been confirmed, we presume it is our beloved associate, Jill Renick. We are heartbroken and shaken by this development. We are communicating with the family to offer whatever assistance we can, and we are arranging grief counseling to help our associates process this shocking news. This is a difficult time for us all. We ask that you please respect everyone's privacy as we deal with our tragic loss."

The last time Troy Callihan heard from his brother Travis was a text he received from Travis about Harvey's flood waters approaching his house in Houston, the New York Times reported.

"It’s getting close,” the text read.

Troy told the Times that his brother — who loved to hunt, fish, and scuba dive —

lived alone and quit working after a back injury in a boating accident some years ago.

“He changed dramatically after he hurt himself,” Troy said. “But he’d still come over and visit my kids. We helped him recuperate. And even if we couldn’t see each other, we’d talk.”

Also in Harris County:

Alexander Kwoksum Sung, 64, drowned inside his clock repair business after frantically telling his daughter he would call her right back, the Washington Post reported. Officials confirmed his death.

Batool Qasem, a 76-year-old woman, was found Saturday night floating near her car; Agnes Stanley, 89, was found Sunday morning floating in 4ft of water in her home; Andrew Pasek, a 25-year-old, died after stepping on a live electrical wire in flood waters; Jorge Raul Perez was found floating on Tuesday as was Yahir Rubio-Vizuet and 65-year-old Charles Ray James; Benito Cavazos Juarez, a 42-year-old man, was found face down in a parking lot after the flood waters receded and Calvin Oran Montalbano, a 54-year-old, was found lying in a grassy area near a freeway, the Harris County's chief medical examiner reported.

Others included Samuel Laurence Burns Sr., a 62-year-old who collapsed in the flood water, Wilma Ratcliff Ellis, a 73-year-old woman, who was found floating by the Coast Guard; Colby Henry Osorno, 24; Gustavo Hernandez Rodriguez,40, and Benjamin Vizuet, 33, who were found on the banks of Greens Bayou ; Victor Manuel Acevedo, 67, who was found in an alleyway; Martin Salazar, 49, who was found in a ditch after evacuating his residence; Keisha Monique Williams, a 32-year-old woman who was found lying across a fence after the flood receded; Efrain Angel, a 26-year-old who was found in a ditch; Tomas Carreon Esquivel,25; Alonso E Guillen, 31, and Michael Tucker, 66, who was found floating in 4ft of water after leaving his home, the medical examiner's report said.

First responders in Beaumont, Texas, along the Gulf Coast, recovered a little girl and her unresponsive mother as they floated down a flooded canal.

Trying to escape the quickly rising water, Collette Sulcer had grabbed her 3-year-old daughter and fled her car after it became submerged at around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Beaumont police said in a statement. Sulcer was then swept into a canal and found floating, holding her daughter, about a half-mile from the vehicle.

"They were in the water for quite some time,” said officer Carol Riley, a spokesperson for the Beaumont Police Department. “When the baby was found, the baby was clinging to her. The mother did the best she could to keep her child up over the water.”

Sulcer, 41, was a surgical nurse whose smile lit up a room, coworkers told the New York Times. She watched cooking shows and loved music, and had just recently traveled to Houston to see Ed Sheeran in concert. She had been in touch with family members and friends about trying to escape the worsening floods, the Times reported, and then the messages stopped coming.

Seeing a pink backpack bobbing in the water, officers and two fire rescue divers in a Zodiac boat were able to grab Jordyn and Sulcer, who was unresponsive, before they floated underneath a trestle, police said.

Jordyn, who is now in stable condition, but was found shivering and hypothermic, is being called a miracle.

"Ms Jordyn Grace. The only girl in our family of all boys, our lil tomboy at its finest. Our special little miracle you survived all that water for hours holding on to my cousin, my godsister," Sylvia Allison, Sulcer's cousin, wrote on Facebook. "The only one who showed she was proud of me. Your mother! On my last breath you wont want for anything. I love you babygirl."

Also in Jefferson County:

Beaumont police also found the body of another woman floating in a neighborhood. She has not been identified. Rescue teams pulled a floating body from a neighborhood street on Aug. 30, and on Sept. 2, Port Arthur authorities said they found an 88-year-old woman who died inside her home.

Police recovered the body of 83-year-old Ola Mae Crooks in southwest Walker County Tuesday.

Crooks appeared to have drowned when her car was swept off the road at the San Jacinto River near her home on Crooks Lane, and authorities found the vehicle early morning Tuesday, according to local media. The Walker County coroner's office confirmed the death to BuzzFeed News Wednesday.

Officials confirmed five storm-related fatalities in Montgomery County on Tuesday, September 5, including Lisa Jones, a 60-year-old woman who died after a tree fell on her trailer while she was asleep in the bedroom.

Her husband screamed for Jones when a large oak tree fell on their trailer during the storm. He said that she had gone to the bedroom to take a nap when the tree fell. He was unable to get to her or unable to get her to respond, so he left to ask for help, the sheriff's office said.

Authorities found her body in the bedroom of the couple's trailer.

Montgomery County officials also reported the death of two others who drowned trying to escape the floodwaters.

Joshua Feuerstein of Conroe, 33, also died Monday when he drove his pickup into standing water, the Associated Press first reported.

Separately, an unidentified man died attempting to swim on flooded roadways Monday, according to the authorities.

Lieutenant Scott Spencer of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office confirmed the men's deaths to BuzzFeed News Wednesday.

The couple, 65-year-old Donald and his wife, Rochelle,58, had called 911 and said their truck was taking on water on Pool Hill Road, KHOU reported. They got disconnected, and when dispatchers called back, the truck had washed off the roadway and crashed into a ditch.

Distraught friends and family members waited near the crash as deputies recovered the bodies, the station reported.

"We're just trying to make sense of something that doesn't really make any sense," Tony Henny, Donnie's step-brother, said. "It just reminds us that life is very, very short and precious. We certainly are feeling a huge loss and a large hole in our hearts right now."

The Fort Bend County Sheriff's confirmed their identities on Wednesday.

A three-month-old baby girl died after rushing water ripped her from her father's arms, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The baby's parents, a young Houston couple, were on their way to a shelter after fleeing their flooded home when high water forced them out of their pickup truck. They swam through the 40-foot-deep water trying to get to safety when they lost hold of their daughter, the paper said. Firefighters found them clinging to tree branches hours later.

Two other people also drowned in San Jacinto County, according to the sheriff's Office.

Two people died after a tree fell on their pickup truck in Jasper County.

Their 2012 Ford pick-up truck was driving late Tuesday night when a tree fell from the edge of the roadway and landed on the vehicle, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

The Newton County Sheriff's Office said a man and woman died as a result of floodwaters.

Local media reported that several people tried to save 61-year-old Clementine Thomas after her car was swept off a highway. A woman's body was recovered on Sept. 1, Sheriff Billy Rowles said.

A lineman working was electrocuted while trying to restore electricity near Bloomington, the Victoria County Sheriff's Office told BuzzFeed News.

The Victoria Advocate reported that the man was 21-year-old and was working for T&D Solutions when the accident occurred

American Electric Power Texas confirmed his death in a statement.

"Please remember that safety is the number one priority for everyone working on the restoration effort," said Judith E. Talavera, president and COO of AEP Texas. "Restoring electric service to our customers is important, but we need to remain focused on safety. Our collective hearts go out to the family. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers."

Officials in Orange County, a low-lying coastal county that has been decimated by flooding, reported nine storm-related deaths.

On Sunday, Sept. 3, the Orange County Office of Emergency Management reported that nine people had died as a result of the storm, four or whom were elderly.

"If you have a friend or family member that did not leave areas that were impacted by the rising waters and you have not heard from them, we urge you to contact your local law enforcement," the agency said on Facebook.

CORRECTION

Ruben Jordan formerly coached high school track and football. An earlier version of this post misidentified one of the sports.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

If you've been impacted by the storm in Texas or have a tip about rescue, relief, government, or aid efforts, call the BuzzFeed News tipline at (646) 589-8598. Find us on Signal, email, SecureDrop, and more here.

Brianna Sacks is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Brianna Sacks at brianna.sacks@buzzfeed.com.

Cora Lewis is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Lewis reports on labor.

Contact Cora Lewis at cora.lewis@buzzfeed.com.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.