The daughter of a mental health patient who died on Tuesday in the back of a sheriff’s van as Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on South Carolina says she feels “betrayed” by the deputies who managed to escape the rising floodwaters.
Rose Hershberger, 19, said her mother Nicolette Green, 43, was seeking help for schizophrenia when she drowned in the back of the van that night alongside 45-year-old Windy Newton, Hershberger told NBC News. The patients were being transported from hospitals to a behavioral center — neither Green nor Newton have arrest records in the state, according to CBS News.
“I was in absolute shock,” Hershberger told NBC of her mother’s death. “I feel very upset and kind of betrayed, because my mom was a very, very trusting person.”
The Horry County Sheriff Office deputies have been identified as Joshua Bishop and Stephen Flood, according to the Associated Press.
The deputies were traveling in the area of the Little Pee Dee River when they drove into floodwaters that quickly swamped the van.
The deputies tried to pull the women out, but couldn’t get the van doors open, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said during a Wednesday news conference. Thompson noted that the deputies “tried for a long period of time” to rescue the women. He said he does not believe the women were in restraints.
Search teams later found the deputies on top of the submerged van and were rescued. Thompson said the deputies have been placed on administrative leave.
“She still put her trust in the deputies that were supposed to take care of her and made sure she got there safely, and the fact that they were able to get out but my mom and the other woman wasn’t makes me feel really like hurt and betrayed by them,” Hershberger told NBC of her mother. “In my head, it’s hard for me to accept the fact that my mom is now dead.”
Thompson told reporters that the deputies may have driven around a barrier blocking a road as they attempted to take the women to a behavioral center in the city of Florence. He said it is common for deputies to transport mental health patients.
Hershberger said she is “confused” by the deputies’ alleged decision to drive down a road blocked by flooding.
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She said her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia three years ago and had been taking medication. Hershberger said Green was going to be committed to a mental institution under the suggestion of her new therapist.
Green’s sister, Jewel Green, spoke out about the incident in a series of Facebook posts, in which she said authorities had not reached out to the family.
“My sister … didn’t deserve such a callus ending to her life. Neither did the other woman, Windy Newton,” Green wrote in a post on Wednesday. “These were 2 loving women who sought help and were killed by the thoughtless actions of those sworn to serve and protect them. It’s absolutely devastating for BOTH families. I am sure Nikki bonded with Ms. Newton in those final minutes.”
A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE. It is unclear whether the women’s bodies have been recovered.
Nearly 40 people have died as a result of Hurricane Florence, the latest numbers from CBS News reveal. Nearly 343,000 people are still without power in North Carolina.