State lawmakers form subcommittee to review Horry County Sheriff’s transport tragedy

Wendy Newton and Nicolette Green were killed near this stretch of road in Nichols after riding in an Horry County Sheriff's Office transport van. SLED is investigating what happened that day. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

As SLED investigates what happened when two mental health patients drowned in the back of an Horry County Sheriff’s Office Transport van Sept. 18, state lawmakers formed a subcommittee to investigate how they can keep that tragedy from happening again.

It comes from the Corrections and Penology Committee in the state legislature.

Five state senators, including Chairman Marlin Kimpson (D), District 42, will work with witnesses in state law enforcement, corrections and mental health departments to evaluate whether there should be better treatment for mental health patients and if they should be transported by law enforcement.

“In South Carolina, we have to evaluate how we treat persons with mental disabilities,” said Kimpson in a phone interview, Monday.

It’s an investigation that will remain separate from SLED’s investigation.

“This is not focused on the judicatory process with respect to those claims,” he said. “This is really more of a policy-driven search.”

Kimpson said the subcommittee will probably start meeting in November. There is no word on how many meetings the group will hold.

He said the group could make a recommendation to increase funding for the state’s mental health department. He and the committee will do whatever they can to keep that incident from happening again.

“We want to learn something about this and look at best practices across the country to see whether or not it makes sense to continue to have law enforcement involved with the transportation of people who have mental health challenges,” he said.

SLED is still investigating. Thom Berry, a SLED spokesman said the department is happy to help the subcommittee during their investigation as needed.

ABC15 News reached out to the Horry County Sheriff’s Office Monday morning for comment on the committee. As of Monday night, we have not heard back.

None of the senators on the subcommittee serve the Grand Strand or Pee Dee regions.

To look at the subcommittee’s release, click here.

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