Bodies recovered of mental health patients almost 24 hours after drowning

Frederick Owens
September 23, 2018

Deputies with the Horry County Sheriff's Office were transporting the two women, who have not been identified, to another facility on Highway 76 when they hit rapidly rising floodwaters, Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in a statement.

North Carolina officials say a body has been found in a trailer near the flooding Cape Fear River.

Bryan Stirling, director of the department, chose not to move inmates despite prison evacuations in Virginia and North Carolina.

Two mental health patients have been killed after the HCSO transport van they were in was overcome with flood waters, according to an Horry County official in SC.

It had gotten dark, and responders decided it wasn't safe to try to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night. They trusted the hospitals and the Sheriff Deputies with their lives and that trust was abused.

But sheriff's spokesman Lt. Sean Swain told The Associated Press that authorities have not confirmed if the man drowned due to flooding from former Hurricane Florence, or if he died of other causes.

Newton, a mother of three who has struggled with mental illness, was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Loris earlier Tuesday after she felt that she was about to suffer "a spell", according to an article published by The New York Times. The deputies transporting them managed to escape, but the women were unable to do so.

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We are working hand-in-hand with the State Law Enforcement Division to cooperate in this investigation.

Horry County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brooke Holden says the pair were in a sheriff's office transport van Tuesday night when it was swept off a rain-soaked road. The Little Pee Dee River reached "major" flood stage in several spots, and forecasters believe it will continue to rise. The incident occurred on Pee Dee Island Road just off of Highway 76. Their names have not been released.

The two individuals being transported were confirmed dead by the Marion County coroner.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the incident. "Due to risky conditions and rising waters, additional search and rescue teams are arriving to assist in the recovery of the vehicle".

"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. High-water rescue teams plucked the deputies from the top of the van.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday visited North Carolina, which is bearing the brunt of Florence's deadly deluge and where rivers are still rising while thousands of homes and roadways remain submerged.

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