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2 ‘detainees’ drown in S.C. as van swept into floodwaters

Meg Kinnard
Associated Press
People use a road as a boat ramp after Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Conway, S.C. Many rivers in the Carolinas are approaching record flood stages and their levels will continue to rise through the week. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two female mental health patients detained for medical transport drowned Tuesday night when a sheriff’s department van was swept away in rising South Carolina floodwaters, according to authorities.

Horry County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Brooke Holden said that a sheriff’s office van was carrying two “detainees” and two deputies to Darlington when it was overtaken by floodwaters. Officials said that the van was near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water that state officials are watching following the heavy rains of Florence.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed to The Associated Press early Wednesday the victim were Windy Wenton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43.

“They’re still under the water,” he said. “It’s come up 2 feet since just last night.”

Richardson said the van came across rising water and was carried off the road.

“They were trying to negotiate through fast-running water, and it just didn’t work out,” he told AP.

Holden said that deputies tried to get the victims out but couldn’t. Rescue teams plucked the deputies from the top of the van.

Horry County Deputy Tom Fox told WPDE-TV the victims were mental health patients being transported from one facility to another. Holden wouldn’t give further details on the victims’ status, citing an ongoing state police investigation. State police haven’t released any information about their probe.

In a release, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said his office would cooperate with the probe.

“Tonight’s incident is a tragedy,” he said. “Just like you, we have questions we want answered.”