Deputy Sentenced to 18 Years in Drowning of 2 Detainees

Women were trapped in back of van after Stephen Flood tried to drive through water
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2022 4:02 AM CDT
Deputy Sentenced to 18 Years in Drowning of 2 Detainees
This photo provided by the Marion County Jail shows Stephen Flood.   (Marion County Jail via AP)

(Newser) – A former deputy in South Carolina who ignored supervisors' suggestions of alternate routes and tried to drive through floodwaters has been found guilty on all charges in the deaths of two women trapped in the back of a sheriff's department van. Stephen Flood, 70, was sentenced to 18 years in prison around 30 minutes after a jury found the former Horry County deputy guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of reckless homicide on Thursday, WBTW reports. Mental health patients Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton drowned in a cage in the back of the van in September 2018 after floodwaters from Hurricane Florence pinned it against a guardrail.

Green, 45, and Newton, 43, had been involuntarily committed to mental health institutions by judges, but their families said they were not violent, the AP reports. Florence County Solicitor Ed Clements told the court that the deaths were the result of Flood's decision to try to drive 2 miles through water after National Guard troops allowed him to drive around barricades. "This was a deliberate act set in motion by a pompous, stubborn man," Donnela Green-Johnson, Green's sister told the judge. "He abused the trust my sister, Nikki, Wendy, and the state of South Carolina entrusted him with. And for what? To save time."

After the van was pinned against the guardrail, Flood and another deputy were unable to open a sliding door. They didn't have the key to a second door and there was no emergency escape hatch. Rescuers were unable to free the women before the rising waters made it too dangerous to continue. Flood told the judge that he tried to keep the women calm for around an hour as they waited for help to arrive. "I never, ever intended, to make this happen the way it did. It was a series of mistakes on my part. And other people that led me to that point in time that day," he said, per WPDE. "I'm sorry for what happened to the girls." The other deputy, Joshua Bishop, will be tried separately. (Read more South Carolina stories.)

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