Deputies to Be Charged in Hurricane Drowning Deaths

Mental health patients died locked in van
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2019 5:32 AM CST
Updated Jan 4, 2019 6:40 AM CST
Deputies to Be Charged in Hurricane Drowning Deaths
Allison Newton, left, and Charles Newton, middle, talk to reporters about their mother who drowned while being transported in a police van to a mental hospital during Hurricane Florence.   (AP Photo/Jeffrey S. Collins)

Two former law enforcement officers in South Carolina are going to face criminal charges in the disturbing deaths of two mental health patients who drowned during Hurricane Florence. Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton died in the back of the sheriff's van they were being transported to a mental hospital in after the vehicle ran into floodwaters. Deputies Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop, who were rescued, said they were unable to free the women from the locked metal compartment in the back of the van as it slowly sank, Authorities say Flood, who was driving, will be charged with reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter, WSPA reports. Bishop will be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The Horry County Sheriff's Office fired the deputies in October after an internal investigation, the AP reports. Officials say National Guardsmen waved the van past barricades erected to keep motorists away from floodwaters. Newton, 45, and Green, 43, did not have criminal histories and had not been charged with crimes. The deaths sparked moves in South Carolina to change the law so that mental health patients are not treated like criminals, the Post and Courier reports. "My sister was not silent when she was in that van for 30 mins, screaming for help, as it was filling up with water," Jewels Green, one of Green's sisters, wrote in a Facebook post. "My sister does not have a voice anymore. I must speak for her, and for others who suffer from the shame and bigotry attached to mental health illness." (A mother whose baby drowned after she drove past barricades was charged with involuntary manslaughter.)

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