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2 Female Mental Health Patients Die in Back of Police Van Fleeing Florence Floods

But several questions remain unanswered.

Todd Maisel/Polaris/NewscomTodd Maisel/Polaris/Newscom

Several questions remain unanswered after two South Carolina mental health patients died yesterday. The victims, both female, were being transported in a police van when floodwaters overtook their vehicle.

A Horry County Sheriff's Office van was taking Windy Wenton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, to McLeod Behavorial Health in Darlington, South Carolina, Chief Deputy Tom Fox told WLTX. Two deputies were in the van with them, though Wenton and Green were in the back.

Disaster struck when the van was overcome by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which has devastated the region in recent days. Both deputies escaped the van, then attempted to save Wenton and Green. But "despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

The deputies made it to the top of the van, where they were rescued by a high-water team. But nothing could be done to save the two women they were transporting. Both women were declared dead last night, Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson told WPDE, though first responders were not immediately able to retrieve the van with their bodies in it. "They're still under the water," Richardson told the Associated Press this morning. "It's come up two feet since just last night."

In a statement, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson called the deaths a "tragedy," while noting that the two deputies have been placed on administrative leave. "Just like you, we have questions we want answered," he said.

One of the biggest questions: Were Wenton and Green shackled in the back of the van?

Multiple outlets, including ABC News, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News, say the patients were either "shackled" or "chained." When reached for comment by Reason, a spokesperson for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating the incident, said he couldn't confirm that they were shackled. He explained the van was still underwater, though officials were working on a "plan" to recover it later today.

Determining whether Wenton and Green were in chains is important. If they were, then that could have kept them from escaping the van with their lives. It would also raise another question: Why were two mental health patients chained up in the back of a police van in the first place? And why were they moved yesterday, and not before Florence made landfall, especially when state and local officials knew for days that severe flooding was likely?

The deaths of Wenton and Green bring the storm's deathtoll to 37. Though in this case, it's possible Florence isn't to blame so much as the officers transporting the two women and the department that waited so long to relocate them.

Photo Credit: Todd Maisel/Polaris/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Tragically, those two deputies will never be president. Massachusetts senators is as high as they'll go.

  • bvandyke||

    that is funny

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Why not? Republicans have demonstrated recently that they'll vote for just about anyone.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    You're dumb and humorless.

  • Eddy||

    I'm sure the questions will get answered. The question is what assurance we'll have that the answers are accurate. That may need a little investigating.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Both deputies escaped the van, then attempted to save Wenton and Green. But "despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van,"

    My first question: Was Ted Kennedy driving?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Kind of an obvious joke and one that is beneath you.

  • Juice||

    Isn't it actually above?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Great minds think faster than mediocre ones, I'll say that. About ten minutes faster.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Why couldn't they have died in the trunk?
    Their rotting corpses wouldn't have stunk up the police car so badly.
    Did these women think about that?
    Apparently not.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "Why couldn't they have died in the trunk?"

    Because vans don't have trunks?

  • Trigger Warning||

    Jesus Harold Christ. That's monstrous.

    How hard did our brave heroes try to save these people? Is that question even going to be asked by the investigating authority*?

    *I know it won't.

    Better than dying of benzodiazepine withdrawal? Eh...kind of a lateral move, really.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    This is a tough call. Those officers may have actually tried to save those women. This is a tragic accident. Avoidable with better bureaucratic oversight? *shrug*

    This is in no way like the tragic accident of shooting someone in the wrong apartment.

  • Eddy||

    It's a nasty way to die, and like the apartment thing, even if we accept the version told by the officers, it's still a Very Bad Thing. They were responsible for the safety of these women. When they took custody of the women the women were alive. Now the women are dead.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    They are, but as the article suggests, this might go higher than the chauffeur.

  • Eddy||

    Hypothetically, if that's the case, then the cops ought to finger the higher-ups rather than take all the blame themselves.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Trust me, the Union is already on it.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Like the wrong apartment shooting, will the cops search their homes looking for narcotics in some attempt to discredit their character? I'm sure their doctors have prescribed something we can use to besmirch them.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Boy this comment section is going to shit.

    I guess I have to do everything:

    You know who else died mysteriously in the back of a police van?

  • Rich||

    Adolph Gray?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Jimmy Hoffa?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Crusty's "volunteers"?

  • All your base are belong to us||

    Krieger's waifu?

  • Rich||

    Disaster struck when the van was overcome by flood waters deputies drove the van improperly.

    FTFY

  • Jerryskids||

    The deaths of Wenton and Green bring the storm's deathtoll to 37. Though in this case, it's possible Florence isn't to blame so much as the officers transporting the two women and the department that waited so long to relocate them.

    Relocate them, huh? That McLeod Mental Health facility you mention is a detox center. My guess is they weren't transporting "mental health patients", they were transporting prisoners. And they weren't necessarily evacuating them in response to the flood, they were just getting non-paying guests out of the county lock-up and into the drug rehab center they'd been sentenced to. So a good first question might be, were they evacuating all the prisoners? Or just these two? If was just these two while any other prisoners were safely riding out the storm in the jail, it seems like this would be criminal negligence, going out in a flood when they didn't have to.

  • Tarbutton21||

    I don't know of many prisoners that get sent to private substance abuse treatment. They were probably ER patients in need of treatment that were IVC'd. It is also common practice and often policy for law enforcement to cuff or shackle mental health patients when transporting them.

  • KWlib||

    So they have published the names of two 'mental health patients' who for some unexplained reason were locked up in the back of a police van. That in itself sounds improper to me.

    It seems appropriate that the two 'heroes' that were transporting them should have their names published also. You know, so we can send them their medals for bravery.

    /sarc

  • Brian||

    If you don't wanna die like a crazy person, don't need professional help like a crazy person.

  • DajjaI||

    Wow, I was actually going to say exactly that - but unironically. Never walk into a mental hospital and expect to make it out alive.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Since no one else will say it, isn't there a bit of redundancy in the title of this article?

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