The family of a woman who drowned in South Carolina while being transported to a mental health facility in a sheriff’s van during Hurricane Florence settled a lawsuit in her death.
On Monday, a settlement of wrongful death and survival claims with the maker of the van was filed, awarding Linda Green, a relative of the 43-year-old victim, Nicolette Green, with $1,000,000.
Nicolette Green was being taken to McLeod Behavior Health Services in Darlington when she drowned in a caged van driven by Horry County deputies on September 18, 2018.
Wendy Newton, 45, was also in the van, which was manufactured by American Aluminum Accessories and included a caged compartment modified with one exit door and one escape path in case of an emergency.
Both women died after deputies Joshua Bishop and Stephen Flood, drove into floodwaters near the Little Pee Dee River in Marion County during the storm.
The deputies survived after escaping and waiting on the roof of the vehicle for help.
On May 28, a petition for approval was filed in the 15th Judicial Circuit, stating American Aluminum Accessories agreed to the settlement of $1 million, with $500,000 being disbursed for the wrongful death claim, and $500,000 for the survival claims.
A full hearing was held later on June 2, 2021. The court approved the settlement.
Linda Green had accumulated $400,000.00 in attorney fees and $48,328.46 for costs incurred. The gross sum for Green, minus the costs paid from the settlement, will be collect $551,671.54.
In addition, Green also is suing Horry County, the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Phillip Thompson, Elizabeth Orlando, and the two now-former deputies who were driving the van.
Green’s family told CBS she had three children, but one died in 2015 from cancer.
Her 19-year-old daughter Nicolette Hershberger said Green was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few years before her death and visited a new therapist the day of the incident.
The therapist said Green should be committed to a mental institution shortly after.
According to the sheriff’s department, Newton and Green were in the back of the van the night they died. Thompson said he does not believe they were shackled or in police restraints.
He said Bishop and Flood tried to help free Newton and Green ‘for a long period of time’, but eventually had to seek refuge on the vehicle’s roof as floodwaters rose.
‘I’m not sure if it was the way the van was positioned, against a guardrail, or if it was pressure from the water, but unfortunately they were not able to get the van doors open and get the ladies out,’ Thompson said at the time.
According to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, the portion of Highway 76 where the van was, closed that night. Officials told WMBF that it had been closed for some time.
It took a rescue crew 45 minutes to find the submerged van. The deputies were plucked from the roof and taken to safety via a boat. According to CBS, by the time crews reached the women the van was underwater.
Because of the dangerous conditions, rescuers could not retrieve the bodies immediately and they were pulled from the water nearly 24 hours later.
‘We’re sorry. We take a lot of pride in what we do. We work hard to protect and to serve our citizens, and we’re just so very sorry that this event has taken place,’ Thompson said.
Both Flood and Bishop were terminated from the sheriff’s office in October 2018. They were indicted by a grand jury in 2019 after internal investigation. Flood faced two counts of reckless homicide and two counts of involuntary manslaughter charges, while Bishop was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The case is pending.