Horry County Deputies Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop were fired more than a month after two mental health patients drowned in a County van that was steered into Florence floodwaters. State lawmakers have vowed to launch an investigation on their own as to how this could have happened.
Nicolette Green, 43, and Wendy Newton, 45 were ordered to emergency care by their doctors. “A doctor’s order triggers the state law prescribing who should take patients to mental health facilities. The law allows family members or a private ambulance to do the job, but that rarely happens. Instead, law enforcement officers are usually required to take on the task.” (The Post and Courier).
On September 18, the deputies were transporting Green and Newton to hospitals for treatment in a van designed to transport prisoners (although neither woman had a criminal history). On U.S. Highway 76, near Nichols, SC, they encountered barricades blocking the road, due to flooding caused by recent Tropical Storm Florence. National Guardsmen allowed the van to pass through, “acting on orders to let law enforcement around barriers”, Horry County’s sheriff said.
The van entered the floodwater, which overtook the van. The deputies were able to get out, but could not free the women, who were pleading for help. The van went under, and the women drowned.
“The van was not specially equipped to travel through high water.” Public officials and the community were outraged, wondering why the van was authorized to drive in those conditions, when the public was being warned NOT to get out on the roads because of dire flooding risks. Police were even ticketing motorists who did not heed warning signs.
“A SLED inquiry into whether the deputies committed crimes is still unfolding, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.”
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