CONWAY, S.C. (WSAV) – Authorities have recovered the bodies of two mental health patients who drowned while being transported by sheriff’s deputies Tuesday.
According to the Horry County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) search and rescue divers recovered the bodies of Nicolette Green, 43, and Windy Newton, 45 on Wednesday evening.
Personnel from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), assisted by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), recovered them from an HCSO transport van on Highway 76 in Marion County.
“We are pleased that the bodies of the victims were recovered. We would like to thank the South Carolina DNR, SLED, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County EMS, Marion County Coroner, and all those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts,” reads a statement from the sheriff’s office.
Two HCSO officers were transporting Green and Newton from Conway to a behavioral center in Darlington following “involuntary commitments by a physician.”
Citing SC State Law (Section 44-17-410) and (Section 44-17-440), HCSO says they are required to take into custody and transport [a person(s)] to the hospital designated by the certification.
According to HCSO, the department escorts about 1,200 patients per year for treatment. They travel up to 40,000 miles each month.
The van the patients and deputies were in was overtaken by floodwaters, and while the officers were able to escape, they were unable to free the patients.
It’s still unclear if the officers drove around any barriers and why they were near the floodwaters.
HCSO Sheriff Phillip Thompson the deputies, Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop, have been placed on administrative leave. Several investigations are underway.
The bodies of Green and Newton will be taken to Charleston for an autopsy, according to the Marion County Coroner.