April 19, 2009 in Nation/World

Five children die in swamped car

Michael Graczyk Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Friends of Kerda Harris, not shown, the mother of two of five children swept away by high water in Houston, react during the search Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

HOUSTON – Five Houston children died Saturday after their sedan slid into a rain-swollen ditch when the driver lost control while trying to answer a cell phone, authorities said.

John Cannon, a Houston police spokesman, said the driver of the car was the father of four of the dead children, all 7 or younger. Cannon said the driver was taken for blood-alcohol testing.

The father was among two adults and a 10-year-old girl who escaped the fast-moving current that swept the car 100 feet from where it left the road and made the vehicle inaccessible to emergency workers for hours, Cannon said.

Houston television station KTRK reported that police said the dead children included 1- and 3-year-old girls and three boys, ages 4, 6 and 7.

Cannon said a passenger told police the driver’s cell phone rang, and the driver lost control when he tried to answer it.

Rescue workers found the car in 9 feet of water about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 1/2 hours after the driver lost control.

The children’s deaths brought the weekend death toll to six from massive storms that swept across southeast Texas.

A 76-year-old Fayette County man died Friday after his car got stuck in a flooded underpass in Schulenburg, midway between Houston and San Antonio. Frank Floyd, of Hallettsville, drowned after he and his wife became trapped after driving into a flooded railroad underpass on U.S. 77, said Schulenburg Police Chief Randy Mican. Floyd’s wife, Mary, 72, managed to escape and was taken to a hospital.

By 5 p.m. Saturday, nearly 5 inches of rain had fallen at Houston’s Hobby Airport, a record for April 18.

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