Body of 5-year-old girl found; recovery efforts continue for woman in submerged vehicle in east Bexar County, sheriff says

Sheriff Salazar: Families were heading to school when their vehicles were swept away near N. Graytown Road and FM 1518

SAN ANTONIO – The body of a 5-year-old girl was recovered from a submerged vehicle and the recovery effort for a 52-year-old woman will resume Friday morning after the vehicles they were traveling in were swept away by high water in east Bexar County Thursday morning, Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

The young girl is a student in the East Central Independent School District.

Both of the vehicles came upon a swollen creek near the intersection of North Graytown Road and FM 1518 in St. Hedwig around 7 a.m. as the families were taking children to school, authorities said. The people in both vehicles were all relatives, according to the sheriff.

The 5-year-old girl was in a vehicle with another man and several other children, who were rescued. The young girl however did not make it out of the vehicle and her body was recovered Thursday afternoon. She was pronounced deceased at the scene, and her body is in the custody of the Bexar County Medical Examiner, Salazar said.

“There’s nothing more heartbreaking than to see the body of a 5-year-old pulled out of a car,” Sheriff Salazar said tearfully. “She’s dressed for what I’m told is her first day of school. She’s still wearing a backpack.”

The other vehicle involved had an adult female and two other children inside. Both children made it out of the vehicle safely, but the 52-year-old woman did not make it out, according to Salazar.

The sheriff said crews used heavy machinery to try and pull the woman’s vehicle out of the creek area, which is still swollen with high water, but were unsuccessful. A Texas Department of Public Safety diver was able to swim out to the vehicle, which is submerged in 10 feet of water, and confirmed the woman’s body is still inside, according to officials.

Crews had to pull back due to the dangers posed by high-speed currents, but Salazar said their recovery efforts will continue early Friday morning.

Some of the people who were rescued were seen clinging to trees when rescue crews first arrived, according to authorities.

Many law enforcement agencies joined together to assist with the day-long recovery efforts. Bexar County Fire Asst. Chief L. Padalecki said it was an all-hands-on-deck situation.

“I can’t say enough to all of us that came together to make this work,” Padalecki said. “This shouldn’t have happened, shouldn’t have happened at all.”

East Central ISD spokesman Brandon Oliver confirmed the girl is a student at one of its elementary schools. District officials issued this statement Thursday.

“East Central ISD is aware of two vehicles within our District being swept away in flooded waters this morning on Abbott Road in St. Hedwig. It is believed that the passengers in the vehicles were students and community members of ECISD. Three juveniles and an adult male were rescued; however, one juvenile and adult female remain missing. Our brave East Central Police Department was among the first on the scene and was instrumental in the rescue and recovery efforts along with Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and Fire & Rescue. East Central ISD is a tight-knit community; we ask that you please send your prayers and positive thoughts toward everyone involved—the rescued, the unaccounted for, the first responders, the families of those involved and for the community as a whole. We remain united in our efforts to keep our children and families safe. East Central ISD is gathering our resources to provide grief counseling. Students and parents may contact the District’s counselors at (210) 634-7100 or visit their campus’ counselor. Families may contact the Ecumenical Center at (210) 616-0885.”

Overnight, some parts of the San Antonio area received up to 8 inches of rain due to widespread thunderstorms. Rain cleared out Thursday, but high water remains a threat.

The Schertz Fire Department and Bexar County Sheriff's Office respond to a high-water rescue on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (KSAT)

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About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

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