Bodies recovered after transportation van swept off road by flood waters, deputies on administrative leave
MULLINS, SC (WOLO)- Two mental health patients died Tuesday when an Horry County Sheriff’s Office transport van drove through flooded waters on Highway 76, near Little Pee Dee River.
Nearly 24 hours after the two women died, their bodies were finally pulled out of the still submerged van.
Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson identified the two victims as Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, N.C. and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach.
Horry County officials say the officers were transporting the two following involuntary commitments by a physician.
The bodies of the two women were recovered Wednesday evening. Several agencies worked together on the recovery efforts including SLED, SCDNR, the National Guard, the Coast Guard, Horry County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office and more.
“They were not shackled, they were not handcuffed,” Tom Berry with SLED said. “The recovery of the two women is what everyone wanted to achieve as soon as possible. To bring closure at least to this part of the this particular incident.”
According to the Marion County coroner, the bodies will be taken to Charleston, S.C. for autopsy.
Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson identified the deputies as Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop. They have been put on administrative leave.
The Sheriff spoke with ABC15 News moments after the bodies were recovered.
“We are sorry. We take a lot of pride in what we do. We work hard to protect and serve our citizens. We are just so very sorry this event has taken place,” he said with tears in his eyes.
One of the big questions is whether or not the deputies drove around barricades.
“Obviously, it appears that they did [drive around barricades.] My question is, I want to know why. What were the circumstances and what happened at that particular time,” Thompson said.
The two women were not in handcuffs or shackles, Thom Berry with the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division said.
“There are a lot of people within our own organizations with the same questions, with the same hurt feelings. Once the bodies were recovered, we all gathered together in prayer to thank God that at least these two women can go home. And now our work on the investigation is what moves along,” he said.
The sheriff held a news conference Wednesday afternoon, where he attempted to answer some questions. He spoke a lot about the questions he has. He also said there are three investigation going on: SLED, internal and a traffic investigation.
Watch the news conference here:
This tragedy is also hitting the community hard.
“It don’t matter what they do now, they can’t go back and change the lives of the two people that were drowned here,” George Collins, who lives near where the van went under water, said.
Now, people are asking for answers.
“I think there was probably some poor decisions made. Everyone else knew not to drive through here. I really feel bad of what happened and I think we need some answers on why and who made those calls and why that happened, because that’s terrible,” Eugene Martin, who lives in Mullins, said.