Two sheriff deputies left two women to drown in the back of a police transport van in South Carolina on Tuesday when the van was overcome by flood waters from Hurricane Florence, a local ABC affiliate, WPDE reported.
The two women were described in news reports as “mental health patients” at Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Center for Mental Health in Horry County, and were on medical transport. The women, who have been identified as 45-year-old Windy Newton, and 43-year-old Nicolette Green, were being transported to McLeod Health, a nearby medical facility. The incident is under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
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. According to the report, the two deputies climbed to the top of the van and were rescued by a high water team. The women remained chained in the van.
“Tonight’s incident is a tragedy,” said Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson, according to local reports. “Just like you, we have questions we want answered. We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event.”
Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson told the Associated Press early Wednesday that the van was still underwater. “They were trying to negotiate through fast-running water, and it just didn’t work out,” Richardson told AP about the incident.
Others had questions about the incident. “If that road is in an area where it is a flood risk, why were they driving on that road anyway?” asked State Rep. Justin Bamberg, a trial attorney in South Carolina who has represented families in cases of police killings, according to the AP. “People need to know exactly how it happened. It makes it seem like someone took a very unnecessary risk.”