2 dead after van swept away in S. Carolina amid Florence flooding

Mental health patients drown in Florence floodwaters after cops fail to free them

The women weren't identified.

The deputies in the van were rescued and taken to the hospital, according to our source, but the patients were chained in the back of the van.

Recovery efforts were underway Wednesday, said Thom Berry, a spokesman for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy", Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in a statement. "We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event".

The patients were being taken from Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Mental Health Hospital to McLeod, according to WPDE. 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.

The National Weather Service says the Lumber River rose 4 feet (1.2 meters) in 24 hours and was still rising Wednesday morning.

Sixteen North Carolina rivers were at major flood stage Tuesday, with an additional three forecast to peak by Thursday.

Most of the deaths have occurred in North Carolina, where entire communities have been virtually cut off by floodwaters and are grappling with rivers cresting at record levels.

Gov. Roy Cooper told a news conference Tuesday is was hard for residents to leave home, and it's even harder for them to wait to go back.

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Cooper warned locals that the flooding isn't over yet.

They traveled northwest, on their way to Darlington about 100 miles away, across an obstacle course of blocked roads and swollen waters.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, arrived in storm-ravaged North Carolina on Wednesday and helped volunteers at a church in the hard-hit coastal town of New Bern.

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Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed to AP earlier Tuesday that two women died in the incident.

"The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported". But despite efforts to yank the doors open, authorities said, the floodwaters were too powerful for the deputies and the patients drowned inside.

Rescue crews needed about 45 minutes to find the van, which was underwater at that point, and plucked the Horry County deputies from the roof, the sheriff said.

"At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle can not be removed due to rising waters and unsafe conditions", the sheriff's office said.

Sheriff's deputies at the scene where two women died while being transported in a police van in SC. In March, Christopher Bennett died after eating drugs and suffering medical issues, a SLED investigation found.

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