SC deputies on leave after women drown in their van

21 September, 2018, 08:57 | Author: Earnest Huff
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A Horry County Sheriff's Office van was swept away in flood waters Tuesday night near Nichols resulting in two female mental health patients drowning in the Little Pee Dee River, according to officials.

South Carolina's Department of Transportation (SCDOT) ordered Interstate 95 in Florence County closed at around 6:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday evening - hours after this news outlet sounded the alarm about rising flood waters spilling over the banks of the Great Pee Dee River.

A statement from the Horry County Sheriff's Office claims that the deputies tried to free the women from the back of the van as it was flooded by fast-rising waters, but they were unsuccessful, The Cut reported. Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van.

Responders decided it wasn't safe to try to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night because of darkness. He said the two deputies involved had been placed on administrative leave and he had launched an internal investigation. Richardson says the women were being transported from a hospital in Horry County to medical facilities in Florence and Darlington.

Rescue crews needed about 45 minutes to find the van, which was underwater at that point, and plucked the Horry County deputies from the roof, the sheriff said. Due to unsafe conditions and rising waters, additional search and rescue teams are arriving to assist in the recovery of the vehicle. The sheriff said that the women were being transported as part of a court order, telling reporters that his agency acts as a courier in such situations, to follow a judge's wishes.

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

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The two deputies in the van were rescued and are being treated at a local hospital.

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy". Thompsons said his office would cooperate with the probe. Neither woman had an arrest record in SC, according to records obtained by the AP.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson said, "They're both still under the water. We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event".

Newton had posted on her Facebook page that she previously had been hospitalized for mental illness. "It makes it seem like someone took a very unnecessary risk".

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, arrived in storm-ravaged North Carolina on Wednesday and helped volunteers at a church in the hard-hit coastal town of New Bern.

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