COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A lawman successful South Carolina whose constabulary van was swept distant by floodwaters successful the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, drowning 2 women seeking intelligence wellness attraction trapped successful a cage successful the backmost was sentenced Thursday to 18 years successful prison.
A Marion County assemblage recovered erstwhile Horry County lawman Stephen Flood blameworthy of 2 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 2 counts of reckless homicide.
Judges ordered Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, to beryllium involuntarily committed the time they died successful September 2018, but their families said they were not violent. Newton was lone seeking medicine for her fearfulness and anxiousness and Green’s household said she was committed to a intelligence installation astatine a regular intelligence wellness assignment by a counsellor she had ne'er seen before.
Flood, 69, was sentenced astir 30 minutes aft the verdict and aft respective relatives of the women said his determination to property guardant with the shortest way near an impossible-to-fix spread successful their lives.
“This was a deliberate enactment acceptable successful question by a pompous, stubborn man,” Green’s sister Donnela Green-Johnson told the judge. “He abused the spot my sister, Nikki, Wendy and the authorities of South Carolina entrusted him with. And for what? To prevention time.”
Circuit Court Judge William Seales sentenced Flood to 5 years successful situation connected each involuntary manslaughter complaint and 4 years connected each reckless homicide complaint and ordered the sentences served back-to-back.
The floodwaters swept the constabulary van disconnected its wheels successful September 2018 and pinned it against a guardrail, preventing the women from being capable to get retired the sliding doorway they utilized to participate the van. Flood and a lawman with him did not person a cardinal to a 2nd doorway and determination was nary exigency flight hatch, according to grounds from the proceedings streamed by WMBF-TV.
The deputies said they spoke to the women and tried to support them calm for astir an hr arsenic the h2o kept rising earlier it got excessively unsafe and rescuers could nary longer perceive them.
“How atrocious indispensable that person been to beryllium determination and hold for your ain death?” Solicitor Ed Clements said successful his closing statement Thursday.
While different factors similar an exigency vigor that failed to notify rescuers of the van’s nonstop determination contributed to the deaths, Clements said the drownings each came retired of Flood’s reckless determination to thrust 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) done water.
National defender troops enactment up barricades connected U.S. Highway 76 conscionable extracurricular Nichols, but Flood drove astir them aft concisely talking to the soldiers.
Clements work from Flood’s connection to investigators that helium felt similar erstwhile helium was successful the water, helium could not crook astir due to the fact that helium could nary longer spot the borderline of the road and was disquieted astir moving into a ditch hidden by the water.
“Maybe it wounded his pridefulness oregon stubbornness. I don’t know. He pushed guardant into h2o that was not conscionable lasting successful a gangly puddle, but it was rushing, crossing the guardrail. All of it was the Little Pee Dee River by then,” Clements said.
Flood’s lawyer said portion it was a unspeakable tragedy, others were trying to unfairly blasted conscionable the erstwhile lawman alternatively of the instrumentality problems, the troops that waived them astir the barricades and supervisors who knew unsafe flooding was starting and sent him adjacent though taking the women to the intelligence wellness facilities was not an emergency.
“I inquire that you defy the impulse to effort to springiness justness to those 2 ladies by giving injustice to this bully man,” defence lawyer Jarrett Bouchette said. “They privation to marque him a scapegoat for this accident.”
Flood did not testify, but earlier helium was sentenced told the justice helium tried everything helium could to support the women calm arsenic the waters roseate and assistance was dilatory to arrive.
“It was a bid of mistakes connected my portion and different radical that led maine to that constituent and I’m atrocious for what happened to the girls,” Flood said.
Flood and the lawman with him, Joshua Bishop, were yet rescued from the apical of the transport van, authorities said. Bishop volition basal proceedings for 2 counts of involuntary manslaughter astatine a aboriginal date.
They tried to sprout the locks disconnected the 2nd door, but it inactive would not open. The hold successful getting assistance was costly too. A firefighter testified they were capable to chopped the extortion disconnected the van and started moving connected the cage, but the h2o got higher and faster and it was excessively unsafe to continue.
Newton’s lad Charles said helium hated that Flood had to larn to travel the rules and usage communal consciousness astatine specified a steep price.
“I tin forgive, but I cannot forget. Fortunately, I inactive retrieve my ma arsenic a blessed woman, a joyful pistillate who loved her family,” helium said. “But you, Mr. Flood, volition retrieve my ma by proceeding her screams successful the backmost of that van.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins connected Twitter astatine https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.