Hurricane Florence has devastated large swathes of the southeastern coast, but the residents of Horry County are devastated today for another reason. According to the Daily Beast, two female mental-health patients were being transported to safety in a sheriff’s van when it was overtaken by the rising waters of Florence’s aftermath.
“We want answers. Why did the Deputies drive through flooded waters? What happened to ‘Turn Around. Don’t Drown?'” said Jewels Green, the sister of Nicolette Green, 43, who is one of the women who drowned in the van. Green’s family issued a statement on Wednesday.
“Gross negligence has robbed two families of their loved ones. We want those who are responsible to be held accountable. These women were not inmates or criminals. They were women who voluntarily sought help,” the family statement, obtained by the Daily Beast through Nicolette’s sister Jewels Green, said on Wednesday. “They trusted the hospitals and the Sheriff Deputies with their lives and that trust was abused. We want answers.”
The van was reportedly transporting Green and 45-year-old Windy Newton, along with two sheriff’s deputies to Darlington. During their commute, the van became submerged in water. According to Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson, the van, along with Green and Newton, are still underwater.
“We are still trying to get them out of the water. The van is in flood water to the side of the river but they are all the way under,” said Richardson, who also noted that the two deputies were able to escape the vehicle but were unable to save the two women. “The water is deep, fast, and contaminated. They were trying to negotiate with it and it just didn’t work out.”
The deputies were rescued from the scene and taken to a nearby hospital. They have now been placed on administrative leave. Richardson added that the van and the two women will be sent to a Charleston coroner’s office for examination. The Horry County Sheriff, Phillip Thompson, released a statement regarding the incident on Wednesday.
“Last night, we had a tragedy. We are working hand-in-hand with the State Law Enforcement Division to cooperate in this investigation. Two additional investigations, including a traffic investigation and an internal investigation, are taking place.”
The two women’s deaths bring the total number of fatalities to 37 since the hurricane initially hit last week. According to Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, though the rainfall is over, there may still be more damage and devastation that occurs.
“This event is not over. The rivers are still cresting. We still have a lot of work to do.”