Mental Patients Chained in Back of Sheriff’s Van Drown During Florence

Lynette PayneSep 23, 2018

The deputies who were transporting the two women to a different facility in SC were saved, local law enforcement officials told ABC News late Tuesday.

In a statement, the sheriff's office said the two deputies escaped from the cab and tried to get the women out of the back.

Aides say President Donald Trump will visit North Carolina on Wednesday to see the damage from Florence.

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

Thompson said it took rescue crews about 45 minutes to find the van and get to it via boat.

The incident is now being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division. "Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors", the statement reads.

That's according to documents obtained from the State Law Enforcement Division concerning 45-year-old Windy Wenton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green.

It happened in Horry County on Highway 917 Tuesday night as the van was in still water on Pee Dee Island Road near the bridge.

"They're still under the water", he said.

When asked by Heavy to clarify if in fact the two people now described as "detainees" were chained, if they were "mental patients" and to answer why deputies were traveling on a highway that was already predicted to be under water, HCSO PIO Brooke Holden said, "Due to an ongoing investigation by SLED, we can't release any further information".

Most of the deaths have occurred in North Carolina, where entire communities have been virtually cut off by floodwaters and are grappling with rivers cresting at record levels.

According to the sheriff's office, the two detainees were being transferred from Waccamaw Mental Health in Myrtle Beach and McLeod Loris Hospital in Loris to McLeod Behavioral Health in Darlington, S.C. The two deputies were rescued, the occupants have not been recovered.

In all, Hurricane Florence has contributed to at least 37 deaths, including at least 27 in North Carolina, officials say.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed to AP earlier Tuesday that two women died in the incident. "Due to unsafe conditions and rising waters, additional search and rescue teams are arriving to assist in the recovery of the vehicle".

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

The Little Pee Dee River reached major flood stage after Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas over the weekend and is expected to crest at 16 feet on September 21, seven feet higher than flood stage.

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