Two women drowned in the back of a sheriff’s van Tuesday when deputies tried to drive down a South Carolina road flooded by tropical storm Florence.
The Horry County Sheriff’s Office described the women as “detainees" but later clarified they were mental patients who had been involuntarily committed for treatment.
They were getting a routine ride from the sheriff’s office to another hospital, according to coroner Jerry Richardson. “It’s a courtesy they do,” he said. “Sometimes you do the right thing and it ends up wrong.”
He said the sheriff’s van picked up Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, at a hospital in Loris — a small town north of Myrtle Beach that lacked a mental-health ward. (A county spokeswoman said they had actually been picked up in Conway, about 20 miles southeast of Loris.)
The van was bound for Florence, about an hour’s drive northwest in good conditions. But that afternoon, in the storm’s aftermath, it wound through a treacherous maze of closed roads and floodwaters pouring off the Pee Dee River and its tributaries.
The van was only halfway to Florence by early evening, when it went underwater near Highway 76 and Pee Dee Island Road.
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