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Former South Carolina Deputy Gets 18 Years for Driving Transport Van With Two Detainees Into Flood, Drowning Them

by Ashleigh N. Dye

A former South Carolina Sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to 18 years in prison on May 19, 2022, for driving a jail transport van onto a flooded road, where it was swept away with a pair of detainees locked in the back and they drowned.

Former Horry County Sheriff’s deputy Stephen Flood, 70, was driving the transport van on September 18, 2018, four days after Hurricane Florence roared ashore and caused widespread flooding that closed 200 roads in the coastal county. He and fellow deputy Joshua Bishop were transporting the detainees, Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, from a hospital to a mental health facility, where both were to be involuntarily committed.

Newton suffered fear and anxiety, and had gone to the hospital seeking medicine. Green was committed by a mental health counselor her family says she had never seen before. State law authorizes the Sheriff’s Department to detain and transfer people for involuntary committals.

As the van approached a barricade, National Guardsmen lowered it, as they did for all emergency vehicles. After a brief exchange with them, Flood drove into the floodwaters, which swamped the vehicle. He and Bishop managed to escape. But they found a highway guardrail blocking the van’s side door, and they didn’t have a key for the other door. Bishop tried and failed to shoot out the lock. The van soon filled with water and drowned the women, making them two of the hurricane’s nine victims in the state.

The deputies were later rescued from atop the vehicle. Both were fired the following month. Flood was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of reckless homicide. A jury found him guilty on May 16, 2019, though the manslaughter charges were later dropped to prevent double jeopardy. His sentence includes a nine-year prison term for each remaining conviction, to be served consecutively. Bishop also faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

The detainees’ families sued the county, blaming Flood for his decision to push through the rising waters and Bishop for failing to stop him. Those suits were reportedly settled for a total of $6.3 million in August 2021. See: Shoun v. Horry Cty., USDC (D.S.C.), Case No. 4:19-cv-02340; and Green v. Horry Cty., USDC (D.S.C.), Case No. 4:19-cv-03467. 

Additional sources: Inside Edition, NPR, Post & Courier, The State, WMBF

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