Criminal charges have been dropped against a former congressman who helped transport two mentally ill people who drowned while trapped in the back of a van hit by flood waters from 2018 South Carolina’s Hurricane Florence.
The van’s driver, former Horry County Assemblyman Stephen Flood, was convicted of two counts of reckless murder in May and is serving a nine-year sentence. But authorities decided to drop involuntary manslaughter charges against former Horry County Deputy Rep. Joshua Bishop, who was riding along and only realized when it was too late Flood was risking her life, attorney Ed Clements told news outlets last week .
Clements said Bishop did everything he could to save the women. He said Flood’s trial helped elucidate Bishop’s role in the deaths of Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, in September 2018. The two women were involuntarily admitted to psychiatric care and are being transferred outside of Horry County for treatment.
While the judges approved the commitment orders for Newton and Green, their families said they were not violent. Newton was only looking for medication for her fear and anxiety and Green’s family said she was committed to a mental health facility at a regular mental health appointment by a counselor she had never seen before.
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Flood water swept the police car off its wheels and pushed it against a guard rail, preventing the women from exiting through the sliding door they used to board the car. Flood and Bishop did not have a key to a second door and there was no emergency exit hatch, according to testimony at Flood’s trial.
MPs said they spoke to the women and tried to keep them calm for about an hour as the water continued to rise before it became too dangerous and rescuers could no longer hear them.
Bishop testified that he tried shooting the locks on the second door, but it still wouldn’t open. The delay in providing assistance was also costly. A firefighter testified that they were able to cut off the roof of the van and began work on the cage, but the water was getting higher and faster and it was too dangerous to continue.
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Flood told investigators he was trying to find the shortest, quickest route to the treatment centers, and if the road was too dangerous, he thought National Guard troops at barricades blocking the freeway leading to the bridge had told him he was should stop.
Prosecutors said Flood shouldn’t have been stubborn and turned around when he started driving through water covering the freeway.