Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton were both killed while riding in a Horry County Sheriff’s Office van after the vehicle became overcome by flood waters during Hurricane Florence. The two victims were previously identified as being prisoners but were actually mental health patients. The victims were being transferred to McLeod Behavioral Health in Darlington, South Carolina, reports WPDE.
ABC Charleston reported that the two women had been “chained” in the back of the van.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson said, “They’re both still under the water. It’s come up 2 feet since last night.” Richardson said the deputy who was driving had been “trying to negotiate through fast-running water, and it just didn’t work out.” Richardson later told the Washington Post that sheriff’s deputies often transfer mental-health patients saying, “It’s a courtesy they do. Sometimes you do the right thing and it ends up wrong.”
Newton, 45, was from Shallotte, North Carolina, and Green, 43, was from Myrtle Beach. Greenville Online reports that neither woman had a criminal record. The pair were killed in the town of Nichols, South Carolina, along Highway 76 south of Nichols in Marion County.
Green’s sister paid tribute in a heartbreaking Facebook post. That post details Green’s battle with depression for twenty years. She was the mother of three children and had one child, Otto, pass away from bone cancer. Green sister wrote, “Our only comfort is that we know she is in Heaven with her son and that she is now at peace.” Green’s sister added, “The officers were on – what appears to be – a completely closed off, flooded road. Why they decided to try to drive through is beyond me. But it cost us my sister. She didn’t deserve to have her life ended this way. She was seeking help. She trusted people and they killed her.”
A press release from the Horry County Sheriff’s Office said that the van had been carrying two detainees. The vehicle got into difficulty a half a mile from the Little Pee Dee River. The two deputies in the van were rescued and are being treated at a local hospital. The sheriff’s press release says that the deputies tried to save the lives of Green and Newton. The statement reads, “Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly and the deputies were unable to open the doors to reach the individuals in the van. High water rescue teams arrived and were able to rescue the two deputies from the top of the van.” The incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division. A spokesman for the division told Greenville Online, “Tonight’s incident is a tragedy. Just like you, we have questions we want answered. We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event.”
At the time of writing, the van is still in the water.