One report said they were inmates. One said it wasn’t known who died and the most recent said that “two mental health patients” drowned while chained inside a South Carolina sheriff’s transport van overcome by flood waters Tuesday evening.
WBTW reported that according to “Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson, two have been confirmed drowned on the Little Pee Dee River.” The incident occurred on Pee Dee Island Road just off of Highway 76. It was reported the deputies were driving west on 76. This image shows the approximate location but heading east from a tweet at around noon Tuesday.
The van was still submerged it was reported at around 8:45 p.m.
According to a corrected report from local media, a Horry County Sheriff’s Office van carrying two people described as “mental health patients” were chained inside and died while the two deputies driving and escorting, survived.
It was reported that Horry County Deputy Sheriff Tom Fox was on scene and told media the victims were “being taken from a Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health.” He said the van was traveling “on road 76 into Marion County when it was overcome with flood waters.”
Local media reported initially “that the two victims were inmates, but officials have since clarified they were patients at nearby mental hospitals.”
It was reported early Tuesday that the Pee Dee River was rising above flood stage and spilling its banks and roadways were flooding but some passable.
Tuesday night, with the van still underwater, state police were on the way to the scene, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesperson told a local news station.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by the flooding in our county, and we hope you know that we are here for you no matter what may come. #TeamHorry is out in the streets working to ensure that everyone stays safe and dry, and we’ll be here until everyone goes home,” the HCSO posted to Facebook today.
Early Wednesday morning, the HCSO public information officer emailed Heavy the following statement:
“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).
Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson stated, “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.”
When asked by Heavy to clarify if in fact the two people now described as “detainees” were chained, if they were “mental patients” and to answer why deputies were traveling on a highway that was already predicted to be under water, HCSO PIO Brooke Holden said, “Due to an ongoing investigation by SLED, we can’t release any further information.”
This story will be updated as information becomes available.