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‘Don’t touch me. I’m dying.’ Harrowing Harvey stories emerge

AMANDA LEE MYERS and ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
Associated Press

One man used his last words to save a friend’s life, warning him away from a live electrical wire. Another died checking on his uncle. Several others were last seen helping people out of floodwaters.

They’re among Harvey victims who lost their lives trying to save other people. Others died doing their best to survive the catastrophic disaster.

They range from 6 years old to 89. Their stories are emerging as the death toll from the storm continues to mount.

Twenty-five-year-old Andrew Pasek was on a mission to check on his beloved older sister’s cat when he stepped on a live electrical wire in ankle-deep water Tuesday, his parents said through sobs Thursday.

Pasek then fell into the lamppost attached to the live wire. Pasek’s friend moved closer to help, but Pasek warned him away.

“He said, ‘Don’t touch me. I’m dying,’” according to his mother, JoDell Pasek, who lost her other son to a drunken driver in the 1990s.

Al Pasek said his son was “a remarkable young man” who was always rescuing animals that needed a home and even once saved his own father’s life when he choked on a piece of food and couldn’t breathe for more than a minute.

“This is absolutely devastating,” Al Pasek said of his son’s death.

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Al and JoDell Pasek want to scatter their son’s ashes at Mount Rushmore, where they had long planned to take a family trip. “Maybe we’ll still take that family trip,” a tearful JoDell said.

Houston police Sgt. Albert Steve Perez died heading to work around 4 a.m. Sunday. The 60-year-old father of two left after his wife urged him to stay home, Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said.

“I’ve got work to do,” Perez told his wife, according to the chief. “He has that in his DNA.”

Acevedo added: “I’ve only been here nine months, we’ve got 6,500 employees and I knew who Steve Perez was, because he was a sweet, gentle public servant.”

Family members react as a van is pulled out of the Greens Bayou with the bodies of six family members on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, in Houston. The van was carried into the bayou during Tropical Storm Harvey as the water went over the bridge. ( Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Two men, 45-year-old Yahir Rubio-Vizuet and 33-year-old Jorge Perez, died in a boat accident while on a mission with family and friends to save people from the floodwaters, according to their family. Two men in their group remain missing, with their family members posting Facebook Live videos as they search on foot for their loved ones.

Other victims of Harvey died in their homes, businesses, or cars, simply trying to stay safe or find refuge.

Fifty-eight-year-old Ruben Jordan disappeared while driving during the storm and was confirmed dead by the Friendswood Police Department, according to his family, who don’t know exactly what happened to him.

Jordan, a beloved football and track coach at Clear Creek High School, was “a hell of a man” with a reputation for helping people, said his brother, Oscar Drew Jordan.

He said Ruben Jordan once took a former student who was addicted to drugs into his home so he could get clean, and then helped the young man get his own apartment.

“He had a bigger heart than anyone I know,” his brother said.

Samuel Saldivar told police he was trying to bring his elderly parents and his brother’s four grandchildren to safety from their flooded home when the van he was driving was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge Sunday.

Saldivar escaped through a window but the others were trapped when the van’s partially submerged sliding door wouldn’t open.

The bodies of Saldivar’s parents and the four grandchildren, who were between 6 and 16, were found Wednesday in the submerged van.

On Tuesday, 82-year-old Ronald Zaring died on a rescue bus on the way to a hospital.

His son, Devin Zaring, said that after the storm hit, there was no way he could get to the nursing home in Friendswood where his Navy veteran father was living after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

This April 17, 2017 photo provided by Devin Zaring shows Ronald Zaring celebrates his birthday at Friendswood Health Care Center in Friendswood, Texas. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, 82-year-old Ronald Zaring died on a rescue bus on the way to a hospital. His son, Devin Zaring, said that after the storm hit, he knew there was no way he could get to the nursing home in Friendswood where his father, a Navy vet and retired medical supplies salesman, was living after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. (Devin Zaring via AP)

But Zaring took comfort in knowing his father was in good hands. Residents and staff were evacuated to a local high school Monday and then were headed to Huntsville.

Ronald Zaring probably died of heart disease combined with pneumonia.

“He was just a super nice guy. He didn’t know a stranger,” Devin Zaring said. “Everybody loved him.”

On Wednesday amid clear skies, 65-year-old Donald Rogers decided to check on his uncle, who lived 10 miles away in Fulshear, Texas.

Rogers and his wife, 58-year-old Rochelle, were passing over a bridge in their pickup when the swift current flipped it over, said Rogers’ stepbrother, Tony Henny.

Rochelle was able to call 911 but rescuers arrived only to find the couple dead in their truck.

“Both of them were very, very good, very caring, extremely benevolent people,” Henny said. “Donald especially would give his last.”

— Associated Press writers Frank Eltman in Garden City, New York, and Anthony Izaguirre in Philadelphia, and AP News Researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.