Sheriff says deputies drove around barricades before van flooded killing two patients

Coroner identifies two patients killed after transport van drives through flood waters (WPDE)

Two mental health patients have been killed after the HCSO transport van they were in was overcome with flood waters Tuesday night, according to an Horry County official in South Carolina.

The bodies were pulled from the water Wednesday afternoon on Pee Dee Island Road just off of Highway 76.

Richardson identified the two patients as Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, NC and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach.

An autopsy is scheduled for Friday morning.

The deputies in the van were rescued and taken to the hospital, according to our source, but the patients were stuck in the back of the van.

Sheriff Phillip Thompson said they were not shackled in, despite original reports.

He identified the deputies as Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop. They have been put on administrative leave.

The sheriff said he believed the deputies drove around barricades on the flooded road. He said they are trying to determine why.

Deputy Sheriff Tom Fox was on scene. He said the victims were mental health patients being taken from Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health.

Fox said the van was headed west on 76 into Marion County when it was overcome with flood waters.

Original reports were that the two victims were inmates, but officials have since clarified they were patients at nearby mental hospitals.

State police were on the way to the scene, according to Thom Berry with SLED.

He said the regional agents were called to the Nichols area for an incident involving an Horry County Sheriff's van.

Many of the roads in that area are closed because of flooding.

The Horry County Sheriff's Office released the following statement Tuesday night:

A Horry County Sheriff’s Office transportation vehicle was involved in a high-water incident tonight. 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 1/2 mile from the Little Pee Dee River when the vehicle was overtaken by flood waters.
The two deputies attempted to extricate the persons being transported. Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals inside the van. High water rescue teams arrived and were able to rescue the two deputies from the top of the van. At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle cannot be removed due to rising waters and dangerous conditions.
The two individuals being transported were confirmed dead by the Marion County Coroner. This incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson stated, "Tonight's incident is a tragedy. Just like you, we have questions we want answered. We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event."

On Wednesday, Thompson sent out this statement:

Last night, we had a tragedy. Two individuals being transported by our HCSO van were involved in a high-water incident and died. Our deputies were driving the vehicle when it was swept away by floodwaters.
According to the Marion County Coroner, the deceased individuals are Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, NC and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach. The incident took place in Marion County.
We are currently working with the SCDNR to recover the vehicle. Due to dangerous conditions and rising waters, additional search and rescue teams are arriving to assist in the recovery of the vehicle.
We are working hand-in-hand with the State Law Enforcement Division to cooperate in this investigation. Two additional investigations including a traffic investigation and an internal investigation are taking place.
As I mentioned, we have as many questions, this is the very reason SLED and internal agencies are established. The officers involved in the incident are placed on administrative leave.
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