A Houston police officer died after he drowned in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday, after his wife urged him to not go to work because the conditions were so bad, the police chief said on Tuesday.
Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, died Sunday morning after his patrol vehicle got caught in floodwaters and trapped him, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and police chief Art Acevedo confirmed during a news conference.
"His wife had told me she had asked him not to go in [to work]. She told him not to go because the conditions were so bad. His response was, 'We got work to do,'" Acevedo said.
An unidentified official told the Houston Chronicle that Perez "was trying different routes, and took a wrong turn." Turner tweeted that Perez drove two and a half hours ahead of work, looking for a safer route to report for duty.
Houston Police recovered Perez's vehicle at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. Acevedo said rough waters made it dangerous to recover Perez's body Monday night.
"We made a decision to leave the officer there, waiting until the morning. Because as much as we wanted to recover him last night, we could not put more officers at risk," Acevedo said as he held back tears.
Perez's wife said the police sergeant told her "I've got work to do" when she asked him to reconsider going to work, Turner tweeted.
Perez was with the Houston Police Department for 34 years.
At least 18 people were killed since the storm made landfall in Texas on Friday. A family of six reportedly drowned Sunday afternoon while trying to escape floodwaters. The driver of the van, identified as Samuel Saldivar, escaped before the van was swept away.
Officials acknowledged that the number of deaths from Harvey could soar once floodwaters start to recede in the sprawling city. Calls for rescue have also overwhelmed emergency teams that they have had little time to search for bodies.
More than 17,000 people have been seeking refuge at shelters as of Tuesday. The George R. Brown Convention Center exceeded its 5,000-person capacity Monday night, with hundreds more people pouring in.
Harvey produced a record 49 inches of rain since it came ashore, the National Weather Service announced on Tuesday. The storm threatened to bring more rain heading toward Louisiana through Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.