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The Latest: Lawyer: Doors blocked, locked when women drowned

November 8, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Latest on state Senate hearings into the drowning of two mental health patients during Hurricane Florence (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

An attorney for the family of one of the two South Carolina mental health patients who drowned in the back of a police van says one door was blocked and the other was locked and the officers did not have keys.

Lawyer Tommy Brittan says the Horry County van rolled over after driving into a hole covered by floodwaters during Hurricane Florence, blocking the door.

Brittan told state senators Thursday that the officers didn’t have keys or bolt cutters to get the back door open and Wendy Newton and Nicolette Green were still conscious as water filled the tiny cage in the van. The deputies were rescued from on top of the van.

Brittan says the deputies aren’t the only ones to blame. He says his client Newton was just seeking mental health medication for anxiety and fear and the hospital she visited shouldn’t have had her committed. He also says a judge should not have agreed and she should not have been moved as Hurricane Florence was flooding the region.

Authorities say the deputies drove around barricades before ending up in the floodwaters.

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10:40 a.m.

Authorities say two sheriff’s deputies drove around a barricades and then a manned checkpoint before their van was inundated with floodwater in South Carolina, killing two mental health patients during Hurricane Florence.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel told a state Senate panel investigating the deaths that he can’t give details like what was said between deputies and National Guard troops because his agents were reviewing their final report Thursday to see if any more investigation is needed before presenting it to prosecutors.

Authorities say Wendy Newton and Nicolette Green were under court orders to be taken to a mental health facility and drowned in the back of the Horry County Sheriff’s van

Investigators say deputies Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop were rescued from the top of the van. They have been fired.

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4:25 a.m.

South Carolina lawmakers want answers after two mental health patients drowned when sheriff’s deputies drove into floodwaters.

Authorities say Wendy Newton and Nicolette Green were under court orders to be taken to a mental health facility when the deputies drove around a barricade closing a road where floodwaters were rapidly rising after Hurricane Florence in September.

Investigators say Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop tried to get the women out of the sheriff’s van, but couldn’t. They were rescued from the top of the van.

The deputies were fired last month. State Criminal Justice Academy records say Flood made a conscious decision to drive around the barricade and Bishop didn’t try to stop him.

A criminal investigation is ongoing.

A Senate subcommittee will discuss the deaths at 10 a.m. Thursday.

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