Fort Hood officials released the names of eight of the nine soldiers Saturday who were killed earlier this week in Texas after floodwaters overturned an Army tactical vehicle at a low-water crossing during a training exercise.
Officials identified the soldiers as Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colonvazquez, 38, of Brooklyn, New York; Spc. Christine Faith Armstrong, 27, of Twentynine Palms, California; Pfc. Brandon Austin Banner, 22, of Milton, Florida; Pfc. Zachery Nathaniel Fuller, 23, of Palmetto, Florida; Pvt. Isaac Lee Deleon, 19, of San Angelo, Texas; Pvt. Eddy Raelaurin Gates, 20, of Dunn, North Carolina; Pvt. Tysheena Lynette James, 21, of Jersey City, New Jersey; and Cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey, 21, of Valparaiso, Indiana.
Officials with the post said the name of the ninth soldier who died won’t be released until the family can be notified.
Fort Hood released biographical information on the deceased soldiers on Facebook.
The heavy rain that’s been hovering over parts of Southeast and Central Texas and caused deadly flooding began to lift Saturday, but officials said the flooding emergency near the Gulf Coast was worsening and Army officials kept up their investigation of a training exercise that turned deadly at Fort Hood.
Emergency medical services chief Jeff Mincy told the Kileen Daily Herald that he arrived at the scene of the overturned 2 1/2 –ton vehicle from the low-water crossing at around 11:30 a.m. Thursday. He said firefighters had already pulled the three surviving soldiers from the rushing waters of Owl Creek.
"I can't estimate how fast it was flowing, but it was faster than I would have felt comfortable putting anything into the water," Mincy said. "When we did find the vehicle, we could see the tires sticking up out of the water, so in that position where the vehicle settled, it had to have been about 8 feet deep."
The bodies of five soldiers from the Central Texas post were recovered Thursday and four were found Friday, while the three surviving soldiers were discharged Friday from Fort Hood's hospital and returned to duty.
Defense Chief Ash Carter, who has been in Asia for a security summit, said he has been updated on the deaths of the soldiers and released a statement Saturday.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of nine brave soldiers in this training accident. This tragedy has touched the 1st Cavalry Division, the Fort Hood community, and the entire Department of Defense,” Carter said. “It painfully demonstrates, along with the loss of a Blue Angels pilot this week, the risks our men and women in uniform take on behalf of the American people every day.
“I am immensely grateful for the efforts of the military and civilian personnel who responded to the Fort Hood incident, and for the safe recovery of three soldiers. We will learn from this incident and do what we can to prevent something like this from happening again.”
In Southeast Texas, water levels began to recede Saturday along upstream portions of the Brazos River, but the peril increased downstream as the water churned toward the Gulf of Mexico. Emergency officials in Brazoria County warned residents in East Columbia, Bailey's Prairie and Bar-X to be prepared to evacuate their homes.
The Brazos River stood at 52.55 feet near midday Saturday at Rosharon in northern Brazoria County, which is 9.55 feet above flood stage. It is expected to crest at 52.8 feet late Sunday morning — third-highest crest on record at that gauge.
The weather ranged from drizzle to bouts of heavy rain, Brazoria County spokeswoman Sharon Trower said. About 2,000 homes have been ordered evacuated in the Rosharon area, about 30 miles south of Houston, and emergency shelters were filling, she said. No injuries have been reported in the county from the flood. Three prisons in the area have been evacuated since last week.
Except for widely scattered showers in Central and East Texas, the bulk of the rain Saturday was confined to the upper Texas Gulf Coast and the southern tip of Texas.
In Fort Bend County, just southwest of Houston, emergency officials reported seeing slightly improved conditions in flood-struck areas. And while the rain-swollen Brazos has ceased to rise, County Judge Robert Hebert said, some neighborhoods remain cut off by floodwaters and many local streets remain impassable.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.