Mom hopes new flood gate will prevent another drowning on Westpark Tollway

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Flood gates now sit at both ends of an underpass where a young woman drowned during the Tax Day flood.

Claudia Cormier, the woman's mother, now believes her daughter's death was not in vain.

Eyewitness News was with Cormier on Monday morning when she saw the gates on the Post Oak exit from the Westpark Tollway for the first time. She had been pushing for safety improvements.

"It's so painful, you know," she trailed off while looking at the gates. "I lost my baby."

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The gates provide her some comfort, knowing other mothers may not experience her pain.

"I'm dead. My body is alive but my inside is dead. It's my only baby," she cried.

Her only daughter, Claudia Melgar, drove around a truck barricade at the Post Oak exit and went into 20-foot deep water. Road cameras captured her using her cell phone to signal for help for 15 minutes.

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Almost three weeks later, the Harris County Toll Road Authority installed gates at the beginning of the Post Oak exit ramp and another set at the end of the ramp, near Richmond, to prevent wrong-way drivers. A flashing light will be added to the area by the end of the month.

"Nobody is going to lose their loved ones. No mom has this pain that I went through, that I'm going through -- that I'm going to live with this pain," Cormier cried.

The Texas Department of Transportation will be installing flood gates on the West Loop access roads within the next 30 to 60 days. One set of gates will be on the southbound side, past Richmond. The other set will be on the northbound side past Westpark.

Following the Memorial Day flood, TxDOT reviewed the area and installed water gauges and heightened signage in the area to alert drivers of water over the road.

"We're trying to eliminate the potential for motorists to make decisions that are not in their best interest," spokesperson Raquelle Lewis said.

Lewis added that TxDOT always emphasizes for drivers to "turn around, don't drown."

Cormier says she is grateful for the "quick response" to the loss of her daughter.
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