NICHOLS, SC AREA (WBTW) – Wednesday marks one year since two women drowned in an Horry County Sheriff’s Office van.
On September 19, 2018, days after Hurricane Florence impacted the South Carolina coast, first responders were called to the scene of an incident near Nichols involving an Horry County Sheriff’s Office transportation vehicle.
Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson identified the two women as Wendy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, NC and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach.
According to Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson, first responders were called to an incident involving an HCSO van on Highway 76 south of Nichols in Marion County.
A press release from the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, stated the vehicle, staffed by two Horry County Sheriff’s Office deputies, was transporting two detainees from Conway to Darlington. The vehicle was traveling west on Highway 76 around ½ mile from the Little Pee Dee River when the vehicle was overtaken by flood waters.
Jewels Green texted back and forth with a News13 reporter while traveling to Pennsylvania to bury her sister, Nicolette Green, in their hometown. Jewels Green said she was angry, confused, and wanted justice for her sister.
“I want answers. I want admissions of guilt and culpability. I want reform for mental health illness policies and procedures. I don’t want this to go away,” Jewels wrote in an emotional Facebook post remembering the death of Nicolette.
In late September 2018, News13 reported that according to the HCSO, the transport van was waved past barricades by National Guardsmen.
According to Brooke Holden, with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, the HCSO transport vehicle was waved past barricades by National Guardsmen the night the two women drowned.
Holden also said there was an order out that law enforcement vehicles were able to pass through the barricaded area.
In November, News13 obtained disciplinary reports for Flood and Bishop, which said an alternate route was provided.
Flood’s report said he was the driver and that he “made a conscious decision to drive a transport van around a barricade and into flood waters (a substantial risk) that resulted in the death of patients after being provided a safe route by supervisors to avoid floodwaters.”
In the response section of his form, Flood stated “the facts in this report are not true.”
Bishop’s report suggested he “failed to make a conscious and conspicuous effort to stop Officer Stephen Flood from driving into floodwater” after “being provided an alternate safe route by supervisors.”
In the response section of his form, Bishop marked through it and didn’t comment.
In December, News13 reported that the 12th Circuit Solicitor’s Office had received the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s report about the Horry County Sheriff’s Office van drowning case.
On January 4, News13 reported that Bishop and Flood appeared before a Marion County judge after turning themselves in to the Marion County Detention Center, and were released on bond.
On January 17, News13 obtained photos from the incident from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
On April 8, News13 reported that a judge found probable cause in the cases against Bishop and Flood after both had preliminary hearings in a Marion County courtroom. Flood is charged with two counts of reckless homicide and two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Bishop faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
A judge modified conditions for Stephen Flood to go to North Carolina for work purposes only, according to 12th Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements. The judge reportedly thought the request to modify bond for Flood was reasonable.
Newton’s family is seeking an unspecified amount of money in a suit that alleges wrongful death by driving her in a locked cage on a dangerous road into standing water, failing to follow the correct route, and for using the caged inmate van for a mental health patient, among other actions. The suit was filed by the Brittain Law Firm on behalf of Sarah Shoun and Allison Newton, representatives of Newton’s estate.
All parties were ordered by US State District Judge Mary Lewis to begin mediation. The time limit for the mediation period was not yet made available.
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