Mental Health Patients Drown in Sheriff's Van in Florence Floodwaters
By David Boroff
Two mental health patients shackled in the back of a sheriff's van drowned in Florence floodwaters on Tuesday night while being moved to a different facility in South Carolina.
Horry County deputies were driving on a highway near Little Pee Dee River when their vehicle was overrun by water, the sheriff's office said. The deputies tried to remove the two women from the vehicles, but were unable to open the doors to reach them.
High-water rescue teams were able to safely retrieve the deputies, but Windy Wenton, 45, and 43-year-old Nicolette Green could not be saved. Their bodies were recovered on Wednesday morning.
"Tonight's incident is a tragedy," Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said Tuesday. "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."
The patients were being transported to McLeod Behavorial Health in Darlington, according to WLTX. One of them was from Waccamaw Center for Mental Health and the other was from the Loris Hospital, according to the station.
Little Pee Dee River is one of the bodies of water officials are watching closely for intense flooding.
In addition, a Virginia man was killed Tuesday after his pickup truck was overtaken by rushing water during a flash flood. The truck was found upside down and submerged in water.
Florence has killed at least 37 people in the Carolinas and Virginia, and even though it went from being a hurricane to a tropical depression, experts warn people not to underestimate the impact of the storm.
"The concept of saying 'downgraded' or 'weakened should be forever banished," University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd told USA Today. "With Florence, I felt it was more dangerous after it was lowered to Category 2."
Florence had been a Category 4 storm, but was later changed to Category 2 and then Category 1.
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