Two mental-health patients in sheriff’s van drown in S.C. floodwaters

Mental health patients drown in Florence floodwaters after cops fail to free them

The women, who were shackled, became trapped inside the vehicle.

According to a corrected report from local media, a Horry County Sheriff's Office van carrying two people described as "mental health patients" were chained inside and died while the two deputies driving and escorting, survived.

The deputies took refuge on top of the van, and high-water rescue teams dispatched to the scene saved them.

The women who died have been identified by the Marion County coroner as Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach, and Wendy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, N.C.

"They're still under the water", Richardson told the AP on Wednesday morning.

It's unclear why the deputies made the treacherous trek through an area with hazardous flooding and what exactly hindered the patients from getting freed from the vehicle, said Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson.

"It could be assumed that he did", Thompson said Wednesday. "Just like you, we have questions we want answered".

The incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division.

Thompson said the deputies tried to get Newton and Green out of the van.




We are working hand-in-hand with the State Law Enforcement Division to cooperate in this investigation.

Officials say the van was traveling near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water officials in SC are watching closely as water continues to poor into the state from upriver in North Carolina following the heavy rains of Florence. The vehicle, staffed by two Horry County Sheriff's Office deputies, was transporting two detainees from Conway to Darlington.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed the victims were female. As waters surged, the sheriffs realized there was no way they continue their journey by van; if anything, staying in the van was putting them at risk.

US President Donald Trump helps with flood relief supplies in North Carolina.

"I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won't end", he said.

According to ABC affiliate WPDE, the patients were being transported from Loris Hospital Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health, which runs multiple facilities in the region.

"The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported", a statement from the Horry County sheriff's office noted.

The death toll from Hurricane Florence climbed to at least 37, and North Carolina's governor pleaded with thousands of evacuees not to return home just yet.

On Wednesday, the sheriff said the vehicle had not yet been recovered yet due to risky conditions and rising waters.

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