ONLY ON ABC-7: LaStrega remembered

ABC-7 confirmed the name of the woman found in a hail-filled ditch

Only on ABC-7: LaStrega remembered

EL PASO, Texas - ABC-7 confirmed the name of the woman who was swept up in rushing water and hail this weekend.

She was Amber LaStrega, 48, and she was homeless.

ABC-7 found a video posted online in March in which LaStrega is being interviewed about living on the streets.

"My name is Amber. I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa," she began telling the interviewer, who was shooting the video for a school project.

LaStrega said she went to college in San Francisco, then moved back to the Midwest after living through an earthquake in 1989.

"(I) Became a copy processor, essentially a typographer, for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune," said LaStrega. "Moved up through the ranks. After 16 years, I was the foreman of PrePress."

She was laid off during newspaper downsizing several years ago.

"People look at the homeless like we're lazy," said LaStrega. "This is the hardest life I've ever lived."

With LaStrega in the video is Harry Powers. ABC-7 found Powers in the parking lot of the Lowe's hardware store near Gateway North Boulevard and Transmountain Road, feet from where the interview had been conducted several weeks ago.

Powers said he and LaStrega met in Iowa in 2011 and had been common-law married since shortly after meeting. He described LaStrega as his best friend.

"She was a great person. She had a really big heart," Powers said. "She loved life and loved animals and she paid it forward when she could."

Powers said they were together before they both lost their jobs -- his with the VA, hers as a graphic plate maker -- in 2011. He said they tried finding work in Iowa for a year before moving down to El Paso, where he had grown up. Powers told ABC-7 he graduated from Andress High School in 1976.

"(We) came back to El Paso to find work," he said, adding that their searches came to no avail. "So we ended up on the street."

Last week, it looked like they had a bit of good luck. Powers had secured an apartment through Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, Powers said the apartment did not allow dogs.

"I got her a poodle dog," Powers said, then paused, and added, "Because she wanted a pet."

LaStrega was not at the apartment April 19 when a severe hail storm swept through the city. She was in a ditch behind the Walmart store on Transmountain, where the couple had camped overnight before obtaining the apartment.

That's where emergency crews found her buried under ice, hypothermic.

"She wouldn't leave her dog, so I was at the apartment and I found out she was in the hospital and unfortunately she passed away," Powers said, wiping away tears on his shirt sleeve.

Powers said he's coping with LaStrega's death with the help of friends and services available through the VA. He also told ABC-7, LaStrega's father was coming to El Paso to claim her body.

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