CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The bodies of two women and a vehicle have been recovered following the drowning deaths of the women while being transported by the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Sheriff Phillip Thompson, with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, first responders were called to an incident involving an HCSO van on Highway 76 south of Nichols in Marion County on Tuesday evening. Two women, identified as Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, NC, and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach, are presumed dead after they could not be rescued from the flooded vehicle Tuesday.
In his statement Wednesday morning, Sheriff Thompson addressed the status of the employees involved in the vehicle becoming trapped by flood waters and the recovery efforts. Below is Sheriff Thompson’s full statement.
Last night, we had a tragedy. Two individuals being transported by our HCSO van were involved in a high-water incident and died. Our deputies were driving the vehicle when it was swept away by floodwaters.
According to the Marion County Coroner, the deceased individuals are Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, NC and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach.
The incident took place in Marion County.
We are currently working with the SCDNR to recover the vehicle. Due to dangerous conditions and rising waters, additional search and rescue teams are arriving to assist in the recovery of the vehicle.
We are working hand-in-hand with the State Law Enforcement Division to cooperate in this investigation. Two additional investigations including a traffic investigation and an internal investigation are taking place.
As I mentioned, we have as many questions, this is the very reason SLED and internal agencies are established.
The officers involved in the incident are placed on administrative leave.
Sheriff Thompson spoke at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. According to Thompson, it took about 45 minutes for responders to find the van’s exact location. There were crews in Marion and Horry Counties attempting to locate the van, and by the time crews got to the van, it was submerged under water and the two Horry County deputies were on the roof.
Thompson also said in the press conference he doesn’t believe the two women were restrained and that there was a court order that came on Tuesday from the hospital for the patients to be transported.
This incident is still under investigation and it hasn’t been confirmed if the van went around a barrier, according to Thompson.
Dive teams were at the scene today and an expert will be flown in from Charleston to dive to put a cable on the van, which will be pulled out with military equipment, Thompson also said.
According to Thompson, the names of the two deputies involved are Stephen Flood, who has been with the HCSO for 10 years, and Joshua Bishop, who has been with the HCSO for 6 years.
Jumana Swindler, Vice President of Communications and Public Information for McLeod Health, released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by this tragedy. As this was a discharged patient, all information requests must be directed (to) the Public Information Office at HCSO or SLED who are handling the investigation.”
The bodies of Green and Newton, and the vehicle, were recovered just before 6 p.m. on Wednesday, according to Brooke Holden, the public information officer for the HCSO. Search and rescue divers from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, with assistance from SLED, recovered the bodies from an HCSO transport van positioned in a washout on Hwy 76 in Marion County. HCSO officers were transporting Green and Newton following involuntary commitments by a physician.
Both Newton and Green’s bodies are in the custody of the Marion County Coroner for autopsies, Holden says. The bodies will be taken to Charleston for an autopsy.
SLED is investigating, Holden also says. The HCSO is also conducting two investigations: a traffic investigation and an internal investigation.
According to Holden, “pursuant to South Carolina State Law (Section 44-17-410) and (Section 44-17-440), a State or local law enforcement officer is authorized and required to take into custody and transport [the person] to the hospital designated by the certification.”