FORT HOOD, Texas — Officials at Fort Hood have confirmed they've found the bodies of four missing soldiers, bringing the total dead to nine after a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle overturned in flood waters Thursday morning.
"Our focus now is on notifying next of kin and caring for our soldiers who have lost one of their teammates ," said Maj. Gen. John Uberti during a news conference early Friday night.
Officials said they'll release the identities of the soldiers 24 hours after the last next of kin is notified so families can grieve.
Investigators with the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center were expected to arrive at Fort Hood Friday night and begin an investigation into the accident.
A dozen soldiers were riding inside the vehicle during a routine training exercise when it became stuck and overturned at a low water crossing area at about 11:20 a.m. Thursday near Cold Springs and Owl Creek roads. While three of the soldiers were found alive, five bodies were located downstream from where the vehicle overturned and four others remained missing.
The bodies of the remaining soldiers were found Friday in an area with heavy brush, steep inclines, and rushing water, base officials said.
The rescue effort involved local and state agencies that were deployed to assist with the search, according to a news release. Emergency resources included aircraft, search dogs, heavy ground equipment, swift-water rescue watercraft, and search personnel.
The three soldiers that were rescued from the rushing waters Thursday were transported to the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Gatesville, Texas and released Friday.
Severe storms have pummeled Texas in recent days, with widespread flooding reported across the state. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster across 31 counties, and heavy rain was falling in some places at a rate of up to 3 inches an hour, according to The Weather Channel.
Earlier Thursday, Fort Hood officials announced the closure of roads on the sprawling base due to high water caused by heavy storms in Texas. They warned residents to stay out of areas subject to flooding, warning them on Facebook that not to attempt “to cross flowing water with your vehicle. Turn around…Don’t drown.”
Officials said Friday that the base was "in the process of closing the road" where the soldiers were swept away Thursday.
Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, the commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, issued a statement on Twitter Thursday night.
"The 1st Cavalry Division is grieving after a training accident at Fort Hood during flash flooding this morning. We are deeply saddened by the loss of several Troopers and continue search operations," Thomson wrote. "Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated during this difficult time as we care for the families, loved ones, and fellow Soldiers of those impacted by this tragedy."
Gov. Greg Abbott also released a statement about the situation Thursday afternoon.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the soldiers, their families and the Fort Hood community, and continue to be with those still unaccounted for," the governor said. "Texas stands ready to provide any assistance to Fort Hood as they deal with this tragedy. The brave men and women stationed at Fort Hood and across our country put their lives on the line every day, and be it through rescue operations or on the battlefield, Texas will forever remain grateful for their sacrifices.”