Two female mental health patients drown while chained up in police van

Two female mental health patients drown while chained up in police van

As South Carolina rivers overflowed from Florence's torrential rain, deputies taking two women to a mental health facility drove into floodwaters that swamped their van and trapped the women inside, officials said Wednesday.

Initial reports suggested that the victims were inmates, but officials have clarified that they were mental patients.

Heading from Conway west on US 76, the transport van with two deputies was about a half mile from the Little Pee Dee River when it encountered the high water, the news release said.

"If that road is in an area where it is a flood risk, why were they driving on that road anyway?" asked State Rep. Justin Bamberg, a trial attorney in SC who has represented families in cases of police killings, according to the AP.

The river stands at more than 14 feet and is expected to reach 15.6 feet by Thursday night.

The deputies were transporting Green and Newton based on court orders from the staff at Waccamaw Center for Mental Health and a mental-health center in Loris, Thompson said. "Sometimes you do the right thing and it ends up wrong".

WPDE reported that the victims have been identified as Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, N.C., and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach.

Richardson said the incident happened on Pee Dee Island Road off U.S. Highway 76 outside of Nichols.

The family says Green had three children, but had lost one child to cancer in 2015.

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"It hasn't been confirmed to me that they did, but here's my question: There's barriers there". She didn't deserve to have her life ended this way.

Horry County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Brooke Holden says a sheriff's office van was carrying two detainees and two deputies from Conway to Darlington on Tuesday night when it was overtaken by flood waters. The vehicle got into difficulty a half a mile from the Little Pee Dee River.

The deputies in the van were rescued, but the patients who were chained in the back of the van died.

"The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported", the news release said. "I'm not sure if it was the way the van was positioned, against a guardrail, or if it was pressure from the water, but unfortunately they were not able to get the van doors open and get the ladies out". High-water rescue teams rescued the deputies from on top of the van.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is now investigating the matter, according to the report.

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy", Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in Tuesday's statement.

A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Flood told a reporter he didn't want to talk to anyone.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Spokesman Thom Berry said recovery efforts are set for today - the van and the victims remain in the flood waters at the scene.

At the time of writing, the van is still in the water.

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