January 4, 2019 / 8:20 PM / 8 months ago

Two former South Carolina police officers charged in hurricane deaths

(Reuters) - Two former South Carolina sheriff’s deputies were charged with involuntary manslaughter on Friday for the deaths of two women who drowned while being transported through floodwaters resulting from September’s Hurricane Florence, court officials said.

The deputies were driving two female mental health patients on Sept. 18 when they passed a barrier warning of rising waters, according to The State newspaper. Floodwaters pinned their van against a guard rail, the newspaper said. The officers managed to escape their vehicle when it began to flood but were unable to rescue the patients, the newspaper said.

Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop were each charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and Flood was also charged with two counts of reckless homicide, according to a spokeswoman for the Marion County Clerk of Courts.

Hurricane Florence, which caused billions of dollars in damage, made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm last September and brought devastating floods to states in the region, resulting in at least 51 deaths.

A day after the deputies abandoned the patients, police discovered the bodies of Wendy Newton, a 45-year-old woman from Shallotte, North Carolina, and Nicolette Green, a 43-year-old woman from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, police said. Officials recovered the van days later.

Flood and Bishop were fired from the sheriff’s office in October, according to police officials.

The men were due back in court at the Marion County Courthouse on Feb. 26.

Local prosecutors and police declined to answer specific questions on how the deaths occurred.

Lawyers for Bishop and Flood could not immediately be reached.

Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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