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

September 19, 2018 Updated: September 19, 2018

Two mental patients that were restrained in the back of a sheriff’s van died in South Carolina when the vehicle in which they were traveling was overcome by floodwaters, said police.

The deputies who were transporting the women to a facility in South Carolina were saved, ABC News reported. The women weren’t identified.

The Horry County Sheriff’s deputies tried to free the two female mental patients, but due to the rapidly rising floodwaters, they were not able to open the doors to the van, Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in the ABC report.

DEVELOPING: Two female mental patients chained in the back of a South Carolina county sheriff’s van drowned when the…

Posted by ABC World News Tonight with David Muir on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is now investigating the matter, according to the report.

“Tonight’s incident is a tragedy,” Thompson said in a statement. “Just like you, we have questions we want answered. We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event.”

WPDE-TV reported that the patients were being transported from Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health. They were going down Highway 76 when the floodwaters began to rise near the Little Pee Dee River, which is a branch of the Lumber River.

The Lumber River as of Sept. 19 was still in “major” flood stage in several places, according to the National Weather Service. The Little Pee Dee River also reached “major” flood stage in several spots, and forecasters believe it will continue to rise.

Floodwaters in North Carolina were still quite high as of Sept. 19.

“I know it was hard to leave home, and it is even harder to wait and wonder whether you even have a home to go back to,” Gov. Roy Cooper said, according to The Associated Press.

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

Cooper warned locals that the flooding isn’t over yet.

“I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won’t end,” he said.

President Donald Trump is slated to visit North Carolina on Sept. 19 to see the damage. “Right now, everybody is saying what a great job we are doing with Hurricane Florence — and they are 100% correct,” he tweeted.

Flooding from Hurricane Florence
A resident surveys a road inundated by water in Lumberton, N.C., on Sept. 18, 2018, following flooding from Hurricane Florence. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Statement

The Horry County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement on the incident:

“A Horry County Sheriff’s Office transportation vehicle was involved in a high-water incident tonight. The vehicle, staffed by two Horry County Sheriff’s Office deputies, was transporting two detainees from Conway to Darlington. The vehicle was traveling west on Highway 76 around ½ mile from the Little Pee Dee River when the vehicle was overtaken by flood waters.

“The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported. Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van.

“High water rescue teams arrived and were able to rescue the two deputies from the top of the van. At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle cannot be removed due to rising waters and dangerous conditions. The two individuals being transported were confirmed dead by the Marion County Coroner. This incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).”