A Houston police officer has died after drowning in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey.
During a news conference, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner confirmed Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, was trapped inside his vehicle by floodwaters on his way to work to help those in need.
Houston Police recovered Perez’s vehicle at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“He was trying different routes, and took a wrong turn,” one unidentified high-ranking official told the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday. Turner tweeted that Perez drove two and a half hours ahead of work, looking for a safer route to report for duty.
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.
“I’ve got work to do,” Perez told wife, who urged him to reconsider reporting for duty.
Sgt. Perez was a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department.
The officer’s death increased the catastrophic storm’s death toll to 15 since the storm made landfall on Friday. It was reported that a family of six drowned Sunday afternoon after their van was swept away while they were trying to escape floodwaters. The driver of the van, identified as Samuel Saldivar, was able to escape before the van was flooded.
Officials acknowledged that the number of deaths from Harvey could rise dramatically once floodwaters start to recede. Because calls for rescue have been so overwhelming for emergency teams, they have had little time to search for bodies.
As of Tuesday, over 17,000 people have been seeking refuge at shelters. The George R. Brown Convention Center exceeded its 5,000-person capacity Monday night, with hundreds more people continuing to pour in.
According to the National Weather Service, Harvey has produced a record 52 inches of rain since it came ashore last week. The storm is expected to bring more rain heading toward Louisiana through Thursday.