'She couldn't swim' | Family of flooding victim speaks about loss, lack of barricades

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Five-year-old Alyssa Layman and 52-year-old Esther Rodriguez-Conde didn’t survive. The two were in separate cars when the floodwaters swept them away.

SAN ANTONIO — Questions continue to linger after floodwaters killed two people last week in east Bexar County. 

Five-year-old Alyssa Layman and 52-year-old Esther Rodriguez-Conde didn’t survive. The two were in separate cars when the floodwaters swept them away.  

Elisa Durda, Esther’s older sister, and Izaiah Rodriguez-Conde, her son, spoke to KENS 5 Monday. The two are taking it hard.

“What a tragedy,” Durda said. 

“I feel sad just losing my mom,” Rodriguez-Conde said.

Last Thursday morning, Esther took her daughter and another child to school. She crossed Graytown Road in the area of Saint Hedwig when the water took control of the car. Durda said water was Esther’s biggest fear.

“She couldn’t swim,” her sister said.

Officials said there were no barricades blocking the road. 

“Esther would have never, ever crossed water, because she was scared of water,” Durda said.

The floodwaters also swept another car carrying four people including five-year-old Alyssa.

Even though her family tried to save her, the little girl didn’t survive. Esther is credited for calling 911 and saving the children. The family said she pulled her daughter out and put her on a tree. They said she got the boy out of the car, but wasn’t able to make it out herself. 

“You never think something like this is going to happen,” Durda said. She did what she had to do as a parent.”

Her family hopes officials learn from this painful loss. Saint Hedwig’s Mayor Dee Grimm says the city is investigating the situation. She sent a lengthy statement to KENS 5.

I first want to say that the City of Saint Hedwig is devastated by this tragedy. We want to send our most sincere sympathies to the victim’s families and our prayers are with them. We also want to express our thanks to the responders who reacted quickly and professionally to such a difficult response.

The City is currently investigating the situation, as we want to have factual and accurate information. Once we have completed our investigation we can give you  more information. 

Regarding where we go from here, we absolutely never want to have this occur again, and will be having collaborative conversations with our response partners on how to improve  planning and response processes. We are a very small town with a very large footprint. Saint Hedwig is the 2nd largest city in Bexar County after San Antonio, but unlike San Antonio, we have a population of just over 2000, and  we strive to manage our limited resources,  so we rely on our first response and emergency management associates during disasters. As Bexar County Office of Emergency Management is also our city’s emergency manager, we will be talking with them about how to move forward so these type of tragedies do not happen again.

“It is hard to see something like this happen and not be able to say goodbye,” Durda said.

Sheriff Javier Salazar said investigators have not recovered the cars. The water is still too high and dangerous. He said crews will be out there in the coming days, and will use a crane to get them out. The sheriff said the cars are needed for evidence.

Esther’s family is raising fund for funeral expenses, click here.