Two mental-health patients in sheriff’s van drown in S.C. floodwaters

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A police van transporting two shackled up mental health patients was overcome by floodwaters in SC on Tuesday night - leaving both detainees dead after cops failed to set them free, officials said.

They are Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach and Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, N.C., according to the coroner, Jerry Richardson.

Both Richardson and Thompson stressed that the women were not restrained.

But the two women, detained in the back of the vehicle, drowned. Doors to such areas don't typically open from the inside. Officials said that the transport 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.

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The South Carolina Department of Corrections tweeted pictures on Monday of prisoners preparing to defend their facilities from flooding.

"There are barriers there", Richardson said. The two officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. The deputies were able to escape, but the two women were not. Thompson said his office would cooperate with the probe. A spokesman for the division told Greenville Online, "Tonight's incident is a tragedy". "They were unable to do so". "I am not sure if it was the way the van was positioned against the guardrail or it was pressure from the water". "When we get the order, we transport them".

The sheriff's deputies survived after rescue teams arrived on the scene and brought them to safety.

Thompson said it took rescue crews about 45 minutes to find the van and get to it via boat.

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Horry County Deputy Tom Fox told WPDE-TV the victims were mental health patients being transported from one facility to another. "Last year we transported over 1,200 mental patients, this past year and drove about 40,000 miles transporting and never had an incident like this".

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.

Answering a question as to why the women were moved amid Hurricane Florence, Thompson said it was protocol. Greenville Online reports that neither woman had a criminal record.

Harrowing police scanner audio provides details of the efforts to save the women, who could be heard talking as rescuers scrambled to save them.

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It was being driven by deputies from the Horry County Sheriff's Office.

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