Drowning victims in Horry sheriff van caught in flood waters are identified

Drowning victims in Horry sheriff van caught in flood waters are identified

Windy Newton and Nicolette Green were being transported by van to separate mental health facilities Tuesday night after being involuntarily committed by physicians, the Horry County Sheriff's Office told HuffPost in a statement.

But the two women, detained in the back of the vehicle, drowned.

"They got out and tried to open the van to get the ladies out", Thompson told reporters on Wednesday.

By the time a rescue team arrived, the deputies were stranded on top of the van and it was too late for the women.

County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in a statement obtained by ABC News that South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the tragic incident.

"We want those who are responsible to be held accountable", it reads in part.

Both deputies who transported the women have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division and Highway Patrol.

Richardson said the van came across rising water and was carried off the road.

Marion County coroner Jerry Richardson told HuffPost on Wednesday that the submerged van had to be left overnight with the women's bodies still inside because of the danger it posed to rescue workers. Richardson later told the Washington Post that sheriff's deputies often transfer mental-health patients saying, "It's a courtesy they do".

One patient was from Waccamaw Mental Health and the other was from Loris Hospital. "If that road is in an area where it is a flood risk, why were they driving on that road anyway?" asked State Rep. Justin Bamberg, a trial attorney in SC who has represented families in cases of police killings, according to the AP.

Horry County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Brooke Holden said a sheriff's office van was carrying two "detainees" and two deputies to Darlington on Tuesday night when it was overtaken by floodwaters. "We get an order to transport to a facility, that's what we do", Thompson said, reported the Myrtle Beach Sun News. "It makes it seem like someone took a very unnecessary risk".

Several roads in the area were closed due to flooding.

The van was traveling west on US 76 east of Nichols about 5 p.m. on Tuesday. They were women who voluntarily sought help.

Thompson also said he didn't know if the deputies had driven around any barricades blocking the roads.

The death toll from Hurricane Florence climbed to at least 37, and North Carolina's governor pleaded with thousands of evacuees not to return home just yet.

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