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

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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 bodies of the two women were recovered on Wednesday, almost 24 hours after the event began, from the submerged van in the Little Pee Dee River.

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy", Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in Tuesday's statement. The Little Pee Dee River reached "major" flood stage in several spots, and forecasters believe it will continue to rise.

The Horry County Sheriff's deputies reportedly tried to open the back door of the van to release the women, but were unable to because of the rising floodwater.

Officials have identified the two mental health patients who drowned when a van they were riding in was swept away in SC flood waters.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is reportedly investigating the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

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

The SCDOT added the driver of the vehicle had to go around a barrier to get stuck where they were.

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.

President Donald Trump is slated to visit North Carolina on September 19 to see the damage.

In South Carolina, just south of the North Carolina border, I-95 travels through especially low-lying swamp land, and over the Great Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee rivers.

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

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Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed to The Associated Press early Wednesday the victims were Windy Wenton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43. "People need to know exactly how it happened".

A resident surveys a road inundated by water in Lumberton, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, following flooding from Hurricane Florence.

Rescue teams were able to save the deputies from the van's roof, but they could not pull the vehicle from the water because it was too risky, according to the release.

The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported.

Later, someone else reports, "We have the two deputies that are out of the van and are secure on the boat". At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle can not be removed due to rising waters and risky conditions.

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