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South Carolina deputies fired after two women drowned in Florence floodwaters

"It's a beginning," the sister of one of two women who drowned after the van was overtaken by floodwaters following Hurricane Florence said.
Image: Horry County
Responders congregate near where two people drowned when they were trapped in a Horry County Sheriff transport van while crossing an over topped bridge over the Little Pee Dee River on Hwy 76, during rising floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Marion County, South Carolina on Sept. 19, 2018.Gerald Herbert / AP file

Two South Carolina corrections officers who were in a van that was overtaken by floodwaters following Hurricane Florence, killing two female patients inside the vehicle, have been fired.

The Horry County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop’s employment with the department was terminated, a decision it said was the result of an ongoing internal investigation into the drowning deaths of Wendy Newton and Nicolette Green.

The deputies were transporting both women in a van on the evening of Sept. 18 when they are believed to have driven around a barricade, and the van was inundated by floodwaters, officials have said.

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said at the time that both deputies tried to free the women from the back of the van "for a long period of time," but were unable to get them out, and that the deputies eventually sought refuge on the top of the vehicle amid rising water before being rescued. The Marion County coroner has said that both women died from drowning.

Phone numbers for Flood or Bishop could not immediately be found Wednesday night.

Newton, 45, and Green, 43, were described as mental health patients who were being taken to a facility in the aftermath of Florence, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Sept. 14 and caused widespread flooding in the Carolinas.

The women were being transported in the van due to involuntary commitments by physicians when the vehicle was overtaken by floodwaters, the sheriff's office has said.

The Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that an internal investigation and an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division are both ongoing, and because of those probes no other details would immediately be released.

Green's sister, Donnela Green-Johnson, told NBC affiliate WMBF of Myrtle Beach that the firing of the two sheriff’s officials was a step towards justice.

"Even if it's just the admittance of violations in policy which require the termination … it’s a beginning,” she told the station.

Nicolette Green

Nicolette Green’s daughter, Rose Hershberger, told NBC News in September that her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia three years ago and that after going to see a new therapist that physician made the decision that she needed to be committed to a mental institution.

Hershberger said last month that she does not understand why the sheriff’s officials would have driven in an area struck by flooding, when the common warning from public safety officials urges motorists to "turn around, don't drown" and that the public was repeatedly about the dangers of doing so after the hurricane hit.