Horry County, SC — Two women, who were mental health patients under the care of Horry County, have tragically been killed while in police custody as they were being moved to a different facility on Tuesday. They were chained in the back of a police van and drowned after the van drove into flood waters. While original reports claimed that the women were inmates, it was later clarified that they were actually patients—which raises the question of why they were in chains in the back of the van.
According to the report, two deputies with the Horry County Sheriff’s department were transporting the two women to a different facility in South Carolina late Tuesday when the van entered floodwaters and was quickly overtaken. Deputy Sheriff Tom Fox explained that the victims were being taken from Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health. They would tragically never make it to their destination. The women, identified on Wednesday as Wendy Wenton, of Shallotte and Nicolette Green, of Myrtle Beach, remained locked in the back of the van as the rescue team saved the two officers.
As ABC 4 News reported, the pair of Horry County Sheriff’s deputies who were in the van tried to extricate the patients, but, due to rapidly rising floodwaters, were unable to open the van’s doors to reach the shackled women, according to a statement from County Sheriff Phillip Thompson.
Rescue teams responded in time to save the deputies. The coroner in neighboring Marion County confirmed the two deceased patients were female, and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the incident, according to the statement. Police are now investigating the deputies involved in the incident. The Horry County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement Tuesday night:
A Horry County Sheriff’s Office transportation vehicle was involved in a high-water incident tonight. The vehicle, staffed by two Horry County Sheriff’s Office deputies, was transporting two detainees from Conway to Darlington. The vehicle was traveling west on Highway 76 around ½ mile from the Little Pee Dee River when the vehicle was overtaken by flood waters. The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported. Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van. High water rescue teams arrived and were able to rescue the two deputies from the top of the van. At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle cannot be removed due to rising waters and dangerous conditions. The two individuals being transported were confirmed dead by the Marion County Coroner. This incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
“Tonight’s incident is a tragedy,” Thompson said in the statement. “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.” Indeed, spending your last moments alive while chained in the back of a police van, gasping for air that will never come, is most certainly a tragedy.