A 25-year-old community college student, Claudia Melgar, died in the early morning hours on Monday after passing a barricade blocking a flooded underpass. After driving around the truck placed in front of the underpass, Melgar drove her vehicle into 30 feet of standing water. The toll road worker sitting in the truck quickly drove after the woman but was too late. Claudia would pass away as she frantically used her cell phone flashlight to attempt to flee the sinking SUV.
CCTV footage released by city officials shows that the vehicle was fully submerged within minutes and the toll worker’s attempts to rescue Melgar were in vain.
KHOU reports that Claudia Melgar, one of eight area flood victims, died after driving around a truck barricade placed in front of a flooded Houston underpass. The 25-year-old community college student was reportedly returning home from a nightclub in the early morning hours of Monday when she decided to pass a toll road barricade placed in front of a flooded underpass. The young woman then drove directly into 30 feet of standing water at around 6 a.m.
Linda Rodriguez, Melgar’s cousin, says that Claudia was last heard from at 3 a.m. when she allegedly sent a text message to her mother letting her know that she was about to head home from a local nightclub. Claudia asked her mother if she needed her to pick up anything from the store before returning home. However, Claudia Melgar would not make it home, and Linda’s worst nightmares were realized as she drove up to the Houston underpass to learn that a female victim was being pulled from a white SUV.
“She texted her mom that she was on her way home. She asked her mom if she needed anything. And that was the last we heard from her.”
City officials note that a truck barricade was placed in front of the flooded underpass with a city toll worker inside at the time of the incident. It was reported that as Claudia passed the truck, the city worker quickly jumped into action and began chasing the young woman down in the city vehicle. However, Melgar had already driven directly into the standing water before the toll worker could stop her. The flooding was so severe that CCTV footage shows the SUV was fully submerged within minutes, not allowing the toll worker enough time to rescue Melgar.
Warning: The CCTV footage below may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
The CCTV footage shows that after the vehicle entered the flood waters, it was quickly swept down into deeper waters. Claudia, likely realizing that the vehicle was going to go under, quickly turned on her cell phone flashlight and began frantically looking for a way out of the submerging vehicle. Sadly, with little time to react, Claudia was unable to exit the vehicle in time.
Meanwhile, city officials also released dashcam video from the toll worker’s truck showing him attempting to save Claudia as her vehicle was washed away below the underpass. The worker can be seen wading through the water frantically as he attempted to make it to the already submerged vehicle.
ABC 13 reports that it was Bill Smiers who was sitting in the toll road vehicle when Claudia passed the barricade. He says he immediately tried to save the young woman who was frantically waving her cell phone flashlight in a bid to escape by wading into the water.
“The deeper she got, the more frantically she was waving it. I just could not get to her.”
With water continuing to rise after the accident, it would take rescue crews until Tuesday to pump out enough water to retrieve Claudia’s body from the submerged vehicle.
[Image via Harris County Toll Authority]