A 13-year Army veteran was among the nine soldiers stationed at Fort Hood who were killed when a rain-swollen creek swept away their vehicle into rushing waters during a training exercise.
Officials said Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colonvazquez, 38, of Brooklyn died on Thursday when the tactical vehicle overturned about 17 miles northeast of Fort Hood in Texas. It was after heavy rain caused deadly flooding in Southeast and Central Texas last week.
Only the wheels of an Army transport truck were visible after swift floodwaters washed the 2½-ton vehicle from a low-water crossing on Thursday, killing nine soldiers, Coryell County emergency medical services chief Jeff Mincy told the Killeen Daily Herald. Mincy said he arrived at the scene about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, and that firefighters had already pulled the three surviving soldiers from the rushing waters of usually dry 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.
The other soldiers were identified as 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; Cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey, 21, of Valparaiso, Indiana; and Spc. Yingming Sun, 24, of Monterey Park, California.
According to a bio shared by officials, Colonvazquez entered active-duty military service in 2003 as a motor transport operator and was assigned to Fort hood in 2011. He did multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
He had received several awards and decorations during his time in the military, including five Army Commendation medals and five Army Achievement medals.
According to a GoFundMe page for Colonvazquez, he was married with four children. He had seven years left before he could retire.
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.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.