HOUSTON: Four US soldiers who were missing after their vehicle overturned in flood waters during a training exercise at the Fort Hood military post were found dead, taking the death toll from the accident to nine.
The toll had stood at five early yesterday, but later in the day Fort Hood deputy commander Maj Gen John Uberti announced that searchers had recovered the bodies of four missing soldiers downstream from where the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle overturned on Thursday.
"Our focus now is on notifying next of kin and caring for our soldiers who have lost one of their teammates," Uberti said during a news conference last night.
Officials said they will release the identities of the soldiers 24 hours after the last next of kin is notified so families can grieve.
Investigators with the US Army Combat Readiness Center were expected to arrive at Fort Hood and begin an investigation into the accident.
The three surviving soldiers have been released from the hospital and rejoined their families, Uberti said.
"Clearly, this tragedy extends well beyond Fort Hood," he said.
This is not the first tragedy to strike the US military post of Fort Hood.
In November, four soldiers were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a routine training mission in a remote area of the Texas post.
It has also been the scene of two mass shootings.
Two years ago, Army Spc Ivan Lopez opened fire, killing four including himself.
In 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan attacked fellow troops preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, killing 13 and injuring more than 30. He was later convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
The soldiers were training in a wooded area along Owl Creek about a dozen miles north of the main post in an 11-ton Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, a flatbed truck with a walled bed used to carry troops. They were off road, on a "tank trail," traversing a low-water crossing when they overturned at about 11 AM, according to Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway.
Severe storms have lashed Texas in recent days, with widespread flooding reported across the state.
Texas Governor 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.