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 detainees were women being transported from Waccamaw Mental Health and Loris Hospital to a behavioural health hospital in Darlington, South Carolina, according to the Associated Press.
Officials say the van was traveling near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water officials in SC are watching closely as water continues to poor into the state from upriver in North Carolina following the heavy rains of Florence. The deputies were able to climb atop the van as waters inundated the vehicle.
The van was traveling west on Highway 76 into neighboring Marion County when floodwaters overcame the vehicle.
A high water team eventually rescued the two deputies who were escorting them.
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Horry County referred all questions about the incident - including whether the women had been locked up or were merely being transported - to state investigators, who said they had no new information to release.
According to reporter Summer Dashe of WPDE TV-15 (ABC - Myrtle Beach/ Florence, S.C.), "many of the roads in (in the area) are closed because of flooding". Richardson says the women were being transported from a hospital in Horry County to medical facilities in Florence and Darlington. "We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event". Flood stage for the Little Pee Dee is 9 feet. Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van.
A spokesman for the department added: 'In the past, it's been safer to leave them there'.
Police say they died on Tuesday when a sheriff's van transporting them was caught in floodwaters.
Later, someone else reports, "We have the two deputies that are out of the van and are secure on the boat. This incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)".