Published: Thu, September 20, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

2 'detainees' drown as van swept into floodwaters

2 'detainees' drown as van swept into floodwaters

The Horry County Sheriff's Office described the women as detainees, though a county coroner told the Associated Press that they were mental-health patients - 45-year-old Windy Wenton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green - being transported to a facility further inland.

Thompson said he wasn't sure what prevented the deputies from opening the van's rear door to save the women. Deputies waited on top of the van until high-water rescue teams arrived.

The incident happened in the area of the Little Pee Dee River, which branches off from the Lumber River, in Mullins, South Carolina.

Because of darkness, responders decided trying to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night wasn't safe. Thompson said his office would cooperate with the probe.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Spokesman Thom Berry said recovery efforts are set for today - the van and the victims remain in the flood waters at the scene.

The women were identified as a 46-year-old from Shallotte, North Carolina, and a 44-year-old from Myrtle Beach.

In a Wednesday night press conference, Thompson was asked whether or not the deputies had driven around barriers on the flooded road.

"It hasn't been confirmed to me that they did, but here's my question: There's barriers there".

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Thompson planned to address reporters later Wednesday.

When it comes to the deputies who assist in transport, Thompson said that they have gone through extensive intense training. "We are just very sorry that this event has taken place".

The incident has spawned investigations by the State Law Enforcement Division and Highway Patrol. Thompson says Deputies Joshua Bishop and Stephen Flood have been placed on leave during an internal and state police investigation.

WLTX-TV contacted Green's family, who released the following statement, saying they want answers.

Two women "detainees" chained in the back of a police van died when the vehicle was engulfed by Hurricane Florence floodwaters.

The women had been involuntarily committed by a physician, authorities said.

According to ABC affiliate WPDE, the patients were being transported from Loris Hospital Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health, which runs multiple facilities in the region.

According to statute, the documents authorizing the admission require "a law enforcement officer, preferably in civilian clothes and preferably with crisis intervention training, to take into custody and transport the person to the hospital designated by the certification".

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