Horry County, SC (AP, WLTX) - Two South Carolina corrections officers who were driving a van where two women drowned during Tropical Storm Florence have been fired, according to multiple media reports.
News agencies in Myrtle Beach cite a news release from the Horry County Sheriff's office confirming that Corrections Officers Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop has their employment terminated Wednesday. The agency said the move was done "as the result of an ongoing internal administrative investigation into the incident where two female occupants died when a detention center transport van was overtaken by floodwaters."
"Since the administrative internal investigation is currently continuing and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division inquiry into the incident is ongoing, no further details regarding the employees’ termination of employment can be released at this time," the release further states.
Horry County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brooke Holden told The Associated Press last month that South Carolina National Guardsmen allowed deputies to drive around a barrier the night of September 18 because they were in a law enforcement vehicle.
Flood and Bishop were taking two women--Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43--- to a mental health facility.
"It was waved through by the National Guardsmen," Holden said. "Because the van was a Horry County Sheriff's Office law enforcement vehicle that is the main reason why it fell under that order."
Lt. Col. Cindi King, spokeswoman for the South Carolina National Guard, said in September she could not comment on the incident during the ongoing state police investigation.
State police opened an inquiry after the women's deaths on a flooded Marion County road. Deputies were transporting the patients as part of a court order as flood waters rose in the area from heavy rains unleashed by Florence. The powerful tropical system smashed into the Southeast seacoast as a hurricane September 14, triggering severe flooding.
The two deputies worked to free the women who were in the back of the van, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson has said. They were unable to save them.
Rescue crews needed about 45 minutes to find the van, which was underwater at that point. They plucked the Horry County deputies from the roof, the sheriff said.
Officials said the van was in Marion County near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water state officials had watched closely after Florence.
The deputies were originally placed on leave.
"We want those who are responsible to be held accountable," Green's family said in a statement to WLTX. "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."
The family said Green had three children and lost one child to cancer three years ago.