Two South Carolina deputies tasked with transporting two detainees during Hurricane Florence have been charged with manslaughter. The deputies were accused of abandoning the women in the back of a police van, where they drowned in rising floodwaters.
Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop, both Horry County sheriff’s deputies, turned themselves in on Friday morning before a bond hearing at 9 a.m. at which family members of the deceased gave testimony, according to a reporter on the scene.
Both of the deputies were charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Nicolette Green, 43, and Wendy Newton, 45, who died on Sept. 18, 2018, according to The Daily Beast. Flood faces an additional two charges of reckless homicide, accused of driving directly into danger despite knowing the risk.
“This is something we have been hoping and praying for since we heard the news about my sister. My family is beside themselves,” Green’s sister, Donnela Green-Johnson, told the site on Thursday. “These people are finally being held accountable.”
The deputies were fired from the force in October after an investigation by three law enforcement agencies into the incident. The deputies were transporting Newton and Green by van to separate mental health facilities after the pair was committed by physicians. As they attempted to drive around a barrier blocking the road along the Pee Dee River, their van was swept up by floodwaters and pinned against a guardrail, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson told reporters at the time.
The deputies made it out; their detainees did not. The women were reportedly unrestrained, though they would have had no way to escape without someone opening the doors for them. HuffPost reported at the time that their bodies, still inside the submerged van, were left overnight due to safety concerns for rescue workers.
The deputies were seen Friday morning in orange jumpsuits at their bond hearing. For Green-Johnson, the charges signaled that justice was on its way.
“I am happy that it looks like the wheels of justice are moving in the right direction for Wendy and Nikki,” she told the Myrtle Beach Sun News.