2 dead after van is swept away in S. Carolina

Lynette PayneSep 20, 2018

Two female mental health patients drowned in rising floodwaters while chained up in the back of a sheriff's van.

Two deputies were able to escape the vehicle, a news release said. The women weren't identified. Agents of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) are investigating.

In a statement emailed to reporters, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson identified the women as Windy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43. "Just like you, we have questions we want answered", he said.

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.

Under South Carolina law, people who have been certified by a physician as posing an imminent risk of harm to themselves by virtue of mental illness and are the subject of an involuntary emergency admission must be transported by law enforcement to whichever designated hospital has agreed to admit them, according to officials with the state's Department of Mental Health.

The deputies had been scheduled to drop off the pair at nearby hospitals and were driving near the Little Pee Dee River, which had been rapidly rising due to Florence.

The Lumber River as of September 19 was still in "major" flood stage in several places, according to the National Weather Service. Flood stage for the Little Pee Dee is 9 feet.

Asked how the women were restrained in the back of the van, Fox told CNN they were "seat belted". The two deaths will push Florence's toll across three states to almost 40 victims. And why were they moved yesterday, and not before Florence made landfall, especially when state and local officials knew for days that severe flooding was likely? "People need to know exactly how it happened".

President Donald Trump is slated to visit North Carolina on September 19 to see the damage.

Hurricane Florence has now killed at least three dozen people - including at least eight in SC.

Disaster struck when the van was overcome by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which has devastated the region in recent days.

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy".

The deputies were transporting the women from Conway, near the coast, to Darlington, about 65 miles northwest, on Tuesday night.

Holden says the deputies tried to get the detainees out but couldn't open the doors.

Rescue teams were able to save the deputies from the van's roof, but they could not pull the vehicle from the water because it was too unsafe, according to the release.

The van couldn't be removed Tuesday night because of rising waters and risky conditions, according to the release.

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