Two South Carolina sheriff’s deputies have been criminally charged for driving a van through floodwaters during Hurricane Florence in September, drowning two women locked in the back after the van was overtaken by water.
Former deputy Stephen Flood was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide, and Joshua Bishop was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Flood and Bishop were transporting Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, between mental health facilities during the storm when the van came across a flooded road. The deputies drove around barriers and into the waters, causing the van to stall and become trapped as floodwaters quickly rose.
Flood and Bishop tried to save the women “for a long period of time,” but could not get the vehicle’s doors open due to the high water levels, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said soon after the incident.
“They got out and tried to open the van to get the ladies out,” Thompson said. “They were unable to do so. I’m not sure if it was the way the van was positioned, against a guardrail, or if it was pressure from the water, but unfortunately, they were not able to get the van doors open and get the ladies out.”
When first responders arrived on the scene, the van was completely underwater and Flood and Bishop were rescued from its roof. The women’s bodies were later recovered by rescue divers.
Green’s family issued a statement demanding answers as to why the incident occurred.
“Why did the deputies drive through flooded waters?” the family asked. “What happened to ‘Turn Around. Don’t Drown’? Gross negligence has robbed two families of their loved ones. We want those who are responsible to be held accountable.”
In October, about a month after the incident, the deputies were fired from the sheriff’s office “as a 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,” the department said.
On Friday, Flood and Bishop were arrested and booked into jail, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced.
Lawyers for the two men could not immediately be reached for comment by BuzzFeed News, but an attorney for Bishop told ABC News his client “feels horrible for the families.”
The incident was a “horrible tragedy,” his attorney, Bert von Herrmann, said, but he said Bishop “was a passenger transporting them. He wasn’t a decision maker. He was actually the junior person who was on duty.”
Bishop has reportedly submitted a not guilty plea. Flood’s attorney, Allie Argoe, told ABC News her client has not yet submitted a plea.
Wendy Newton’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.