US

Family Outraged After Women Die Trapped in Flooded Van Driven by Deputies

By Zachary Stieber

The families of the two women who died trapped in a flooded van driven by sheriff’s deputies are outraged over what happened.

The deceased were identified as Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43.

The Horry County Sheriff’s Office was driving the women to a mental health facility in South Carolina on Tuesday night, Sept. 18, when the van was overcome with floodwaters near U.S. Highway 76 and Pee Dee Island Road in Marion County.

The deputies in the front of the van said they were able to climb on the roof and wait for a rescue but were unable to reach the women.

Sheriff Phillip Thompson told WPDE that, contrary to some early reports, the women were not shackled. He said the deputies, Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop, drove around barricades on the flooded road, and authorities are trying to figure out why. The deputies have been placed on administrative leave.

Answering a question as to why the women were moved amid Hurricane Florence, Thompson said it was protocol. “We get an order to transport to a facility, that’s what we do,” Thompson said, reported the Myrtle Beach Sun News.

Mental patients die in flooded van
Responders congregate near where two people drowned while trapped in a Horry County Sheriff transport van while crossing an overtopped bridge over the Little Pee Dee River on Hwy 76, during rising floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Marion County, S.C. on Sept. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Flooding in South Carolina from Florence
Rising flood waters in the Pee Dee area in Marion County, S.C., seen on Sept. 17, 2018. Two female mental health patients detained for medical transport drowned Tuesday, Sept. 18, when a sheriff’s department van was swept away in rising floodwaters, according to authorities. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Family Speaks Out

Family members said they were shocked by the deaths and didn’t understand how they happened.

“I was in absolute shock,” Rose Hershberger, 19, a daughter of Green, told NBC.

“I was confused as to why someone would, or the police officers would drive down a road that was in an area that was known for flooding. If they saw the water—they have their own, you know, ‘turn around, don’t drown.’ They have that everywhere.”

Hershberger said that her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia three years ago and took medication for the condition; a new therapist who Green visited on Sept. 18, determined she needed to be committed to a mental institution.

She said her mother was a trusting person who was betrayed by the deputies.

A statement sent by the Green family, including her other living child, to WLTX, added: “We want those who are responsible to be held accountable. These women were not inmates or criminals. They were women who voluntarily sought help. They trusted the hospitals and the Sheriff Deputies with their lives and that trust was abused. We want answers.”