Two mental health patients have drowned after being trapped in a sheriff’s van that was swept away in Hurricane Florence’s floodwaters in South Carolina, wrote the New York Times.
Two Horry County sheriff’s deputies were driving two women from one health facility in the area to another via Highway 76 before the driver lost control of the van due to the rising floodwaters, sending the van off the road and beginning to submerge the vehicle.
The two deputies were able to climb out of the car and get on the roof of the vehicle where they made several attempts to reach the women who were in the back seat of the van but they were unable to do so in time.
After some time, a rescue team came to get the two deputies, but they were unfortunately too late to rescue the two women. The roadway was only half a mile away from the Little Pee Dee River, which the National Weather Service reports has reached 14.5 feet and is continuing to rise, approaching a record high of 17.1 feet.
Due to the dangerous nature of the water levels, the search and rescue teams opted to not retrieve the bodies at night and take a risk of more deaths, instead opting to retrieve the bodies in the morning.
This is an animation of the entire life span of Hurricane #Florence since August 29, 2018 when Florence was a tropical wave moving off the west coast of Africa. Besides, Florence, you'll also see Gordon, Helene, Isaac and Joyce during this very active period in the Atlantic Basin pic.twitter.com/9r9V8JTvX9— NWS WPC (@NWSWPC) September 18, 2018
The deaths have caused heavy discussion in the area with many questioning why the deputies were driving on such a heavily flooded road. That has led to an investigation being led by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, something the sheriff said his office would cooperate with.
“Tonight’s incident is a tragedy, 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.”
Both women were not prisoners or detainees in the legal system but were rather just patients at nearby hospitals that the sheriff’s office was helping to transport, reported CBS News.
Despite the storm leaving the region, flooding is expected to continue for several days as rivers in the Carolinas struggle to drain due to all the rain that Florence dropped as it raged through North and South Carolina. Forecasts predict that river levels will continue to rise through the rest of the week and may not decrease until next week in some parts of South Carolina, which is now affected due to the rivers in the north draining to the south.