HOUSTON, Texas — A video released by the Harris County Toll Road Authority shows a woman drowning in her car after she drove past a road barrier into a deeply flooded underpass on Monday morning.
Flooded underpasses are nothing new in this city and officials constantly use the phrase “Turn around, don’t drown,” to warn drivers of the deadly threat that results from driving into street flooding. Despite the warnings, at least eight people died in the Houston area following rains that dumped as much as 18 inches of rain during a 24 hour period that ended Monday morning.
The video below, released by the Harris County Toll Road Authority following a public information request, shows 25-year-old Claudia Melgar driving past a roadway barrier and into a deeply flooded underpass. She had been driving inbound on the Westpark Tollway and took the Post Oak exit, according to a Houston Chronicle article by Matt Levin.
The video shows the woman struggling inside the white Dodge Journey with a flashlight as she tries to find a way out of the vehicle. As the vehicle’s rear window disappears below the water, the movement inside the vehicle appears to stop. The woman is never seen exiting the vehicle. Her body was recovered on Tuesday.
Another video, not released at this time, shows Melgar avoiding a tow truck that was blocking the exit. A toll road worker was reportedly seen chasing after the woman’s vehicle after she drove past the barrier.
The released video does not show anyone attempting to rescue the drowning woman.
It is estimated the water was about 17 feet deep at the time of the incident. The depth of water on roadways can be very deceiving, especially at night.
County officials have repeatedly warned Houston area residents of the dangers of these flooded roadways in the past.
So far, at least eight people have died from the flooding caused by Monday’s historic rainfall. These include people from neighboring Austin and Waller Counties located just west of Harris County.
The Houston Chronicle’s Jessica Hamilton reported those who have died have been identified as:
- Sunita Vikas Malhara , 49
- Suresh Kumar Talluri’. 49
- Charles Odum, 56
- Teri White Rodriguez, 41
- German Antonio Franco, 66
- Claudia Meglar, 25
- Pedro Rascon Morales, 61
The name of the 8th victim has not yet been released.
While it is clearly recommended to not drive into flooded roadways, victims are frequently caught in these situations and have no idea how to escape from the vehicle. ABC News teamed up with the Indiana State Police to produce a video demonstrating how to escape from a flooded vehicle.
The video above dispels the old method of waiting for the car to fill with water to open the doors. Officials now claim that technique is a death trap. If trapped in the water in your car, these officers recommend you immediately unbuckle your seat belt, roll down your window, grab any children or disabled people, and then escape through the open window.
They stress that time is very limited. Once the water starts rushing in through the window, the car will sink very quickly. Dr. Gordon Geisbrecht, a University of Manitoba professor who trains law enforcement officers on how to escape from a flooded car boiled the process down to four simple words: Seat belts, Windows, Children, Out.