HOUSTON, TX – CCTV video captured the moment 25-year-old Claudia Melgar ignored warnings and drove into a flooded underpass and drowned while frantically trying to escape her vehicle.
Early Monday morning, Melgar sent a text to her mother letting her know she was heading home from a club and asked if she needed anything from the store.
On the way home, Melgar ended up at the Post Oak Exit on the Westpark Tollway. This road had been blocked with a barrier and a tow truck as the underpass had flooded.
Melgar ignored the warnings and squeeze by the truck Bill Smiers, a member of the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s Incident Response Team, was sitting in. He tried stopping her and even tried chasing her down to stop her from going any further.
For whatever reason, Melgar continued down the street and into the waters that was reportedly 17-feet deep at its most flooded. Melgar’s SUV almost immediately starts floating before losing power.
In the video you can see Melgar using her cell phone as a light that she begins waving around more frantically as her vehicle starts to sink.
“I knew the person was in there and alive. All I kept thinking was if I could just make it there maybe I could get the door open,” said Smiers.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much he could do. The flood waters were rising too rapidly. He made two attempts to swim to the SUV but the pumps underneath were sucking him down.
“At that point, I’ve got three boys of my own and a family and i have to see what I can do to save myself,” Smiers said.
Emergency personnel could not get to Melgar’s vehicle until the pumps had removed enough floodwater for them to safely reach it. By that time it was too late and Melgar had already drowned. Melgar’s family were standing yards away when her body was removed from the SUV.
“What happened was truly unfortunate. There was a barrier in place,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said. “We are going to work with TxDOT and the city. I’m going to take ownership of this. We’ve got to make it safe.”