Deputies lacked key for cage as 2 women drowned in van

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION -

COLUMBIA | Two women drowned in

the back of a locked cage while be­ing taken for in­vol­un­tary com­mit­ment to a men­tal hos­pi­tal be­cause the po­lice van they were in took an un­safe route and rolled over, and deputies lacked a key or bolt cut­ters to free them, an at­tor­ney for one of the women’s fam­i­lies told South Carolina law­mak­ers Thurs­day.

The deputies, who drove around bar­ri­cades and a manned check­point and ig­nored the safer route they had been given to avoid flood­wa­ters from Hur­ri­cane Florence, bear plenty of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the deaths of Wendy New­ton and Ni­co­lette Green, said Tommy Brit­tain, an at­tor­ney for

New­ton’s fam­ily.

The deputies have been fired, and a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into their ac­tions is com­ing to an end.

Nei­ther woman was vi­o­lent, their ad­vo­cates said dur­ing a Se­nate sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing.

New­ton was only seek­ing medicine for her fear and anx­i­ety the day she died, the at­tor­ney said. Green’s fam­ily said she was com­mit­ted at a reg­u­lar men­tal health ap­point­ment by a coun­cilor she had never seen be­fore.

A sys­tem in South Carolina that treats non­vi­o­lent men­tal health pa­tients more like crim­i­nals also con­trib­uted greatly to the women’s deaths,

Mr. Brit­tain told a state Se­nate panel Thurs­day.

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