The death toll from Florence reached at least 37 in three states Tuesday, as Florence went in two directions: Water flowed downstream toward the Carolina coast, and storms hit the Northeast, where flash floods struck New Hampshire and NY state.
A SC sheriff says his office is performing an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the drownings of two women in a sheriff's office van who were being brought to a mental health facility.
A Horry County Sheriff's Office van was transporting the two women, who were mental patients, from a hospital in Horry County, S.C. near the coast to a behavioral center further inland in Florence when the vehicle came about a half-mile from the Little Pee Dee River, according to a release from the sheriff's office.
Richardson identified the two patients as Wendy Wenton, of Shallotte; and Nicolette Green, of Myrtle Beach.
Richardson said the patients' bodies were being recovered Wednesday morning.
"It can be assumed he did" drive around a barricade, Sheriff Phillip Thompson said, adding that investigators want to know why the deputies made a decision to disregard the safety measure.
"We get an order to transport to a facility, that's what we do", Thompson said.
Carolinas Interstate 95 Shut Down Again Great Pee Dee flooding shuts down thoroughfare
"We want those who are responsible to be held accountable", it reads in part.
South Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Kelley Hughes said no trooper was stationed at the barricades, though others barricades in the area have had stationed troopers.
Two deputies tried to help the victims, but the floodwater rapidly rose and the deputies couldn't open the doors, according to the sheriff's office.
Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson said the van was still in the water as of 8:45 p.m. on Pee Dee Island Road just off of Highway 76.
"They were unable to do so", Thompson said. A sixth tornado hit Mecklenburg County, near the North Carolina border, the same day.
Hurricane Florence started off as a Category 4 major hurricane but was downgraded to tropical storm right before it hit mainland in North and SC. At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle can not be removed due to rising waters and unsafe conditions.
Sheriff's deputies at the scene where two women died while being transported in a police van in SC.
It is not immediately clear why such a transfer was attempted given the preponderance of flooding in the area due to Hurricane Florence. This incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).