February 19, 2019

SC deputies on leave after women drown in their van

20 September 2018, 10:42 | Randall Craig

The Little Pee Dee River reached major flood stage after Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas over the weekend

Two detainees drown in Little Pee Dee River bodies not recovered

Two people have drowned after a Horry County Sheriff's Office van was swept away by flood waters.

Horry County Deputy Tom Fox told WPDE-TV the victims were mental health patients being transported from one facility to another. The women weren't identified.

The deputies in the van were rescued and taken to the hospital, according to our source, but the patients were chained in the back of the van. When reached for comment by Reason, a spokesperson for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating the incident, said he couldn't confirm that they were shackled.

A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Flood told a reporter he didn't want to talk to anyone. At almost 7 p.m. Wednesday, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the bodies had been recovered.

The Lumber River as of September 19 was still in "major" flood stage in several places, according to the National Weather Service. In addition, there are still segments of I-95 in North Carolina closed beginning at mile marker 13. Two deputies were in the van with them, though Wenton and Green were in the back.

The death toll from Florence rose to 37 in three states, the AP report noted. 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?

"I know that it is a very sad situation so ive just been praying for the victims and the families of the victims", said Martin.

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

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy".

The two women were described in news reports as "mental health patients" at Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Center for Mental Health in Horry County, and were on medical transport.

Officials said the van was near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water state officials were watching following the heavy rains of Florence.

"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", Thompson said. High-water rescue teams plucked the deputies from the top of the van.

According to reporter Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press, as of Wednesday morning both bodies remained inside the submerged truck - with flood waters around the vehicle rising by more than two feet since the incident took place. The two individuals being transported were confirmed dead by the Marion County Coroner.

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