A judge found probable cause in the manslaughter cases against ex-Horry County Sheriff’s deputies who drove a van into floodwaters where two women they were transporting drowned.
The cases will now move forward in the circuit court process.
Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop were in a Marion County courtroom on Monday for their preliminary hearings. After a brief hearing, Judge Danny Barker II found there was enough evidence to continue the cases.
Flood was charged with two counts of reckless homicide and two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Bishop faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The deputies were transporting Nikki Green and Wendy Newton on Sept. 18. The woman were under an order for transfer from Horry County mental health care to other facilities in the state.
On S.C. Highway 76 outside Nichols, the deputies’ van was swept off the road by floodwaters following Hurricane Florence. Green and Newton drowned in the back, and Flood and Bishop were rescued.
The Horry County Sheriff’s Office fired Flood and Bishop after the incident.
Reckless homicide is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter can be punished by up to five years incarceration. Both men are currently free on bond.
SLED investigator Stephen Howell testified during the hearings and said the charges stemmed from the officers’ decisions to take a route through Nichols against supervisor recommendations. They also went around a barricade, met with a National Guardsman and then continued to drive on the flooded road.
Statements Bishop and Flood gave investigators were also read into the record.
Flood drove the van and Bishop stated he was focused on the patients and not paying attention to the route. He said he felt uncomfortable with the water around, but could not remember if he told Flood how he felt.
Shortly after the van was swept off the roadway, Bishop said he freed himself and tried to free the women from the vehicle. A side door wouldn’t open. He got into the back of the vehicle and tried to remove another gate by shooting the locks. But, he was not successful.
Bishop then went to help his partner, who was stuck trying to exit. Bishop freed Flood and moved him to the top of the van while the two called for help.
“I could not get unstuck, I really thought it was my last day on earth,” Flood wrote in his statement, later adding, “If it wasn’t for officer Bishop, I would have died.”
The two women were in the back of the van “screaming to get out and I tried to calm them down,” Flood said.
About an hour after the van was swept off the road, rescue crews arrived. Both deputies said the rescuers used axes to cut into the van.