Two female mental health patients drown while chained up in police van

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Two sheriff deputies left two women to drown in the back of a police transport van in SC on Tuesday when the van was overcome by flood waters from Hurricane Florence, a local ABC affiliate, WPDE reported.

Officials have said two deputies in the van were able to get out and tried to free the women.

"The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported", the news release said. The statement reads, "Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals in the van".

Rescue teams were able to save the deputies from the van's roof, but they could not pull the vehicle from the water because it was too risky, according to the release.

South Carolina's Department of Transportation (SCDOT) ordered Interstate 95 in Florence County closed at around 6:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday evening - hours after this news outlet sounded the alarm about rising flood waters spilling over the banks of the Great Pee Dee River.

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County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in a statement obtained by ABC News that South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the tragic incident. "We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event".

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy".

Marion County coroner Jerry Richardson told HuffPost on Wednesday that the submerged van had to be left overnight with the women's bodies still inside because of the danger it posed to rescue workers. That effort resumed Wednesday morning, and Thompson said a specialized crew was being flown in from Charleston to assist. They were women who voluntarily sought help.

Justin Bamberg, a state lawmaker and lawyer who has represented the families of several people injured or killed by law enforcement officers, said he's perplexed by the decision to transport anyone in such uncertain weather conditions.

There are widespread road closures due to flooding on primary and secondary routes throughout the Pee Dee, according to the SCDOT. They were going down Highway 76 when the floodwaters began to rise near the Little Pee Dee River, which is a branch of the Lumber River. "It's come up 2 feet (0.6 metres) since just last night".

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A spokesman for the department added: 'In the past, it's been safer to leave them there'. Our deputies were driving the vehicle when it was swept away by floodwaters.

We are now working with the SCDNR to recover the vehicle.

At the time of writing, the van is still in the water.

As I mentioned, we have as many questions, this is the very reason SLED and internal agencies are established.

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