Two female mental health patients drown while chained up in police van

A driver in North Carolina navigates Hurricane Florence flooding.   Mark Wilson  Getty Images

A driver in North Carolina navigates Hurricane Florence flooding. Mark Wilson Getty Images

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.

After submerging North Carolina with almost one metre of rain, the storm dumped more than 16.5cm of rain in the Northeast, where it caused flash flooding.

US President Donald Trump helps with flood relief supplies in North Carolina.

Two female mental-health patients being transported by the Horry County Sheriff's Office drowned after the vehicle they were in ran off the road near flood waters in Marion County on Tuesday night.

It had gotten dark, and responders decided it wasn't safe to try to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night.

Though Florence weakened to a tropical storm later on Friday and to a tropical depression afterwards, it caused severe flooding and damage.

Newton, a mother of three who has struggled with mental illness, was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Loris earlier Tuesday after she felt that she was about to suffer "a spell", according to an article published by The New York Times.

The two deputies "attempted to extricate the persons being transported", the agency said in its statement.

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According to reporter Summer Dashe of WPDE TV-15 (ABC - Myrtle Beach/ Florence, S.C.), "many of the roads in (in the area) are closed because of flooding". At almost 7 p.m. Wednesday, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the bodies had been recovered. But unfortunately, they were not able to get the van doors open and to get the ladies out.

Hurricane Florence has now killed at least three dozen people - including at least eight in SC.

Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson confirmed the victims were female.

On Wednesday, the sheriff said the vehicle had not yet been recovered yet due to unsafe conditions and rising waters. Their names have not been released.

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.

KOAA also reports that as of Wednesday morning, the van and the bodies of the women had not been recovered, but the process was underway or expected to be soon.

Thompson said the deputies tried to get Newton and Green out of the van. 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. High-water rescue teams plucked the deputies from the top of the van.

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