Family members call for changes after twins drown

October 4, 2010 4:38:57 PM PDT
Samantha and Alexandra Suarez drowned after being swept away in the waters off the new Texas City Dike. Their father is in critical condition after trying to save them. A local family is in mourning after the deaths of nine-year-old twin sisters who drowned during a family outing along the new Texas City Dike on Sunday. Their father is still hospitalized, injured after he tried to pull his daughters from the water as they were being swept away by the fast current.

It is as hard a loss as can be imagined. Gloria Suarez, 11, lost her twin sisters, and her dad is in critical condition.

Gloria recalled, "We came to the beach and the waves took them."

Sunday morning the Suarez family arrived around 9am for a picnic on the Texas City Dike, just as they had the week before. But this time the weather was cold. They were going to turn around and return to Houston, but nine-year-old twins Alexandra and Samantha raced into the water. Gloria was with them as well and felt the pull of the current herself.

"The waves was like big and bigger and just took them," she said.

The adults ran into the water to rescue the girls who were calling for help, but the currents along the dike -- strengthened by the wake of passing vessels in ship channel -- can be treacherous.

Antonio Esquivel, the girls' uncle, tried to save them but couldn't.

He said, "At that point I was struggling and it was pulling me under and my father, he actually got to where I was and he pulled me out of it."

Esquivel was only about 15 feet away from the girls, but couldn't overcome the strong current to reach them. Family members say Coast Guard officials arrived quickly, but even the rescuers found themselves battling against the conditions.

The girls' bodies were recovered later Sunday. Their father, Hector Saurez, was pulled unconscious from the water. He is said to be in critical condition at Mainland Hospital in Texas City, still unconscious.

Samantha and Alexandra, students at HISD's Foster Elementary in southeast Houston, always did everything together. Family members say the sisters were protective of each other.

The dike is a popular fishing area. There is one beach that's used for swimming, but it has no warning signs or flags alerting people to dangerous conditions. One family member passionately believes there should be.

Linda Lopez, the victims' aunt, said, "You lost two lives. We have Hector in ICU. This is not the first drowning in Texas City and that should be one of the things that they do."

Texas City isn't racing to put up warning signs or flags. The mayor says there have never been warning signs, and most everyone knows the sands shift underwater and the currents are dangerous. But city officials are considering the idea.

Family members tell Eyewitness News the twins' mother has just learned that she's pregnant again, as her husband remains in critical condition.


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