Two mental-health patients in sheriff’s van drown in S.C. floodwaters

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

According to the sheriff's office, the two detainees were being transferred from Waccamaw Mental Health in Myrtle Beach and McLeod Loris Hospital in Loris to McLeod Behavioral Health in Darlington, S.C.

The van was traveling on an area near Little Pee Dee River, when waters surged and pushed the van off the road. The Lumber River overflowed its banks following the record rains dumped by Hurricane Florence.

Initial reports said that the women were in chained restraints, but the Sheriff's Office is disputing them.

According to information from the South Carolina Department of Transportation, the portion of Highway 76 in the Nichols area was closed Tuesday night and had been closed for some time.

Because of darkness, responders decided trying to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night wasn't safe.

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

Battle says as far as he knows, everyone evacuated the town as the water first started to make its way in on Monday.

Two mental health patients referred to by officials as "detainees" who drowned in the back of a sheriff's department transport van in SC have no arrest records in the state. The Little Pee Dee River reached "major" flood stage in several spots, and forecasters believe it will continue to rise.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed to AP earlier Tuesday that two women died in the incident.

The death toll from Florence reached at least 37 in three states Tuesday, as Florence went in two directions: Water flowed downstream toward the Carolina coast, and storms hit the Northeast, where flash floods struck New Hampshire and NY state. "We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event".

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.

"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.

Hurricane Florence has now killed at least three dozen people - including at least eight in SC. Two deputies were rescued but the detainees died.

On Wednesday, the sheriff said the vehicle had not yet been recovered yet due to unsafe conditions and rising waters. This incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

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