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

Mental patients die in flooded van

Two deputies tried to help the victims, but the floodwater rapidly rose and the deputies couldn't open the doors, according to the sheriff's office.

Sheriff's deputies at the scene where two women died while being transported in a police van in SC. Officials said the van was in Marion County near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water state officials are watching closely after Florence.

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

Flooding in South Carolina from Florence
2 women drown in back of police van swept away by Florence flooding

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

North Carolina's governor is pleading with thousands of Hurricane Florence evacuees to be patient and not return home just yet.

In a statement emailed to reporters, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson identified the women as Windy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43.

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Neither woman has an arrest record in SC, according to documents obtained from the State Law Enforcement Division.

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

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.

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'Tonight's incident is a tragedy, ' he said. At almost 7 p.m. Wednesday, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the bodies had been recovered. At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle can not be removed due to rising waters and unsafe conditions. Two deputies were in the van with them, though Wenton and Green were in the back.

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. 'Just like you, we have questions we want answered'. They remained in the van as of early Wednesday, and Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson said authorities would not be able to retrieve their bodies until at least noon.

SLED, the South Carolina Highway Patrol and the Horry County Sheriff's Office are investigating the incident.

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The SCDOT added the driver of the vehicle had to go around a barrier to get stuck where they were. Rescue teams responded in time to save the deputies.

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