Tragic drowning of women with psychiatric disabilities

The news is reporting that a Horry County Sheriff’s Office van was swept away by flood waters in Marion County Tuesday night, resulting in the drowning of two females with mental health diagnoses who were being transported to a different facility. These women were possibly in restraints and unable to escape the submerged vehicle. Although not officially confirmed, there are reports that the road had been closed and indications that the driver of the van went around the barrier. When a situation like this tragedy occurs, it is a reminder to all people with disabilities that, even in 2018, our rights are secondary and our lives are less valued by society.

Individuals who were entrusted to provide treatment in a safe environment have failed these two women, and we must demand answers and accountability to prevent future system failures. Below are some questions we will be posing to the Horry County Sheriff’s office. We realize they may not be able to answer these questions until their internal investigation has concluded:

  1. Why did transporting have to occur directly following a hurricane, when it was general knowledge that many roads were not passable?
  2. Did the driver willfully ignore the barricades, putting the two women in custody in immediate danger?
  3. How will the driver, and those who made the decision to transport despite dangerous road conditions, be held responsible for their actions?
  4. What changes to policies and procedures will law enforcement and government agencies make as a result of this tragedy?

We will also let the Sheriff’s office know that Able SC is a resource to them and we can assist with training and emergency planning to ensure they provide safe and accessible services to residents with disabilities.

Able SC sends our heartfelt condolences to the families. The lives of these two women will forever live in our hearts as we continue to advocate for the rights of all people with disabilities in South Carolina.

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