Authorities have identified two mental health “detainees” who died after a law enforcement vehicle they were inside was overwhelmed by flood waters Tuesday.
The Marion County Coroner’s Office said 45-year-old Wendy Newton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green drowned in the high water. The pair were being transported by Horry County deputies who were able to escape.
“We are currently working with the (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources) to recover the vehicle,” Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in a statement. “Due to dangerous conditions and rising waters, additional search and rescue teams are arriving to assist in the recovery of the vehicle.”
The Sheriff’s Office said the vehicle became stuck in floodwaters between the towns of Mullins and Nichols. The coroner’s office said the women were being taken to a mental health facility in Darlington at the time. Officials have not said whether the trip was evacuation-related or made for another reason.
The department said the two deputies attempted to pull out both women, who were in the back of the vehicle. It was not immediately clear if the two were restrained inside.”Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.
High water rescue teams arrived and were able to rescue the two deputies from the top of the van. However, they were not able to get inside the vehicle to recover Newton’s and Green’s bodies.
The officers are on leave while the State Law Enforcement Division investigates.
“We are working hand-in-hand with the State Law Enforcement Division to cooperate in this investigation,” Thompson continued. “Two additional investigations including a traffic investigation and an internal investigation are taking place.”