Published: Thu, September 20, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Women chained in police van drown in Hurricane Florence floods

Women chained in police van drown in Hurricane Florence floods

Two female mental health patients drowned in Marion County, South Carolina late Tuesday evening when rising flood waters from the Little Pee Dee River overtook the law enforcement transport vehicle in which they were traveling.

The vehicle, staffed by two Horry County Sheriff's Office deputies, was transporting two detainees from Conway to Darlington. Officials said the van was near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water state officials are watching closely following the heavy rains of Florence.

In a Wednesday night press conference, Thompson was asked whether or not the deputies had driven around barriers on the flooded road. "They were unable to do so". Due to unsafe conditions and rising waters, additional search and rescue teams are arriving to assist in the recovery of the vehicle.

Flood and Bishop have been placed on administrative leave, Thompson said.

Later, someone else reports, "We have the two deputies that are out of the van and are secure on the boat".

It had gotten dark, and responders decided it wasn't safe to try to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night.

"This will be investigated thoroughly, at all different aspects of the investigation", Thompson said.

The women, who have been identified as 45-year-old Windy Newton, and 43-year-old Nicolette Green, were being transported to McLeod Health, a nearby medical facility.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed to AP earlier Tuesday that two women died in the incident. It could have been water pressure or the way the van was resting against a guard rail, he said.

Last night, we had a tragedy.

"They were trying to negotiate through fast-running water, and it just didn't work out", he told AP.

The incident has spawned investigations by the State Law Enforcement Division and Highway Patrol. The women were in the back of the van, in shackles. He said it's typical for deputies to transport mental-health patients, and restraints aren't used if the patients aren't a threat. The bodies of Green and Newton will be taken to Medical University of SC in Charleston for autopsies. She also posted multiple times about her struggles. "We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event".

"I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won't end", he said. "It makes it seem like someone took a very unnecessary risk".

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