September 19, 2014

14 months later, investigators still determining cause of air taxi crash

NTSB board member Earl Weemer examines the wreckage in July 2013. 9 Greenville residents died in the crash (Image: NTSB/Flickr)

NTSB board member Earl Weemer examines the wreckage in July 2013. Nine Greenville residents died in the crash (Image: NTSB/Flickr)

Federal investigators say they have not determined why an Alaskan air taxi crashed last year, killing nine South Carolinians.

But the National Transportation Safety Board hopes to determine a cause within the next four months, according to the Greenville News.

The July 2013 crash killed Greenville software sales entrepreneur Melet Antonakos, wife Kimberly, and three children Olivia, Mills, and Ana, along with Greenville doctor Chris McManus, his wife Stacey, and their two children Meghan and Connor. The pilot Walter Rediske also died in the crash.

The deHavilland DCH-3 in which they were all riding crashed shortly after takeoff near Soldotna, Alaska. The group was on their way to a mountain lodge.

Investigators relied on cell phone video filmed by one of the children. The NTSB report noted that the video showed the takeoff, then impact with the ground 16 seconds later.

The report revealed new information about the plane, passengers, and wreckage, but stopped short of giving a cause. You can read all of the documents at the NTSB’s website.

Clemson suspends survey over concerns sexual questions were too personal

Courtesy: Clemson University

Courtesy: Clemson University

Clemson University officials have stopped having students fill out a Title IX survey over complaints from some of those students that the questions were inappropriate.

The school said Thursday that more than 6,000 students took the online training module operated by a third-party, which was intended to educate them about sexual discrimination and assault protections under federal laws known as Title IX.

But the online publication Campus Reform noted some students felt the module asked very personal questions, such as how many sexual encounters they’d experienced in the past three months, how many partners, and how often they had drunk alcohol or used drugs.

Clemson’s dean of students and Associate VP for Student Affairs Shannon Finning said the questionnaire was anonymous and meant to help the school prevent assault or sexual harassment. However, she added the school had pulled the survey for now.

“We’re doing that to ensure that it meets the goal of making Clemson a safer campus for all students, faculty, and staff while also respecting individual privacy,” Finning told WORD News in Greenville.

Finning said that, until this week, they had received nothing but positive feedback about the survey for several weeks.

Greenville affiliate WORD News contributed to this report

Winthrop begins search for new college president

The search for Winthrop University’s 11th president will move forward this fall.

Winthrop trustees on Wednesday chose Texas-based William Funk and Associates to lead the process of finding the school’s next leader. Board chair Kathy Bigham said the process may cost more than $100,000.

“One of the things that we were looking for as a board was a consultant that would reach out initially to a broad base of our constituents, from faculty to students to community to alums to leaders in the university donors, and see what they wanted in a president,” Bigham said following the meeting.

The board of trustees earlier this summer fired president Jamie Comstock Williamson, citing an abusive personality and claiming she misled them about a job given to her husband. 

The search will be funded by the Winthrop University Foundation. Since the private entity footed the bill, there was no bidding or procurement process. Bigham said the Board actively participated in the selection of the consulting firm. William Funk and Associates was involved in the recent presidential searches by Clemson and the University of South Carolina.

The Winthrop University Foundation has agreed to pay $140,000 for the search, which will include travel expenses for the board and eventual finalists. Bigham expects the Board to choose the next president next spring.

Andrew Kiel of Rock Hill station WRHI contributed to this report

Club for Growth backs first-ever Democrat in SC race

Ginny Deerin

Ginny Deerin

A group which supports conservative economic ideas endorsed its first-ever Democrat for statewide office Wednesday.

The South Carolina Club for Growth’s endorsement of Secretary of State nominee Ginny Deerin over incumbent Republican Mark Hammond is significant for the conservative network. The group has only thrown its support behind two candidates in competitive statewide general election races this year (Gov. Nikki Haley is the other) and says its choice is as much a reprimand of Hammond as it is support for his challenger.

The Secretary of State’s Office in South Carolina is responsible for maintaining business records such as incorporations, trademarks, and notaries. It also monitors charities and municipal governments. The Secretary position is chosen by South Carolina voters every four years.

SC Club for Growth executive director Phillip Cease said the group’s board decided to back Deerin because Hammond has presided for 12 years over what the organization views as one of the state’s worst bureaucracies.

“Currently there are almost 150 forms (at the Secretary of State’s Office), only four of those can be filled out online,” Cease said Wednesday. “In 2014, that’s unacceptable.” He added that Hammond is also reimbursed by taxpayers for his roughly 180-mile commutes from his Spartanburg home to Columbia office.

Secretary of State Mark Hammond (Image: WCRS)

Secretary of State Mark Hammond (Image: WCRS)

Cease said that Deerin, a nonprofit management consultant, supported fee reductions, fewer regulations, and making the Secretary of State a position appointed by the governor rather than elected. The Charleston resident also pledged to move to Columbia if elected.

Deerin accepted the endorsement. “I am a Democrat and I have a long history of working with Democrats in this state for many years,” she said. “But, like most people in this state, I believe that we all like the idea of looking at solutions.”

She criticized the bureaucracy at the Secretary of State’s Office, saying “It’s like the DMV used to be.”

Hammond is still the overall favorite to win the race in conservative-leaning South Carolina. He easily cruised to reelection in 2010, beating his Democratic opponent by 22 percentage points.


Low-level droughts declared in 9 counties along Edisto River Basin

Map provided by DNR

Map provided by DNR

The lowest level of drought has now been declared in 9 counties that are located in west and southwestern South Carolina.

The S.C. Drought Response Committee upgraded the drought status to “incipient” for Edgefield, Aiken, Lexington, Barnwell, Allendale, Bamberg, Orangeburg, Hampton, and Colleton counties. The incipient drought declaration is the lowest declaration, followed by moderate, severe and extreme status.

It was the first drought declaration for any part of the state since April 2013. State Climatologist Hope Mizzell said in a release that rainfall totals since June 1 have varied across the state from less than 9 inches in Aiken to more than 34 inches in some coastal observation sites.

Aiken’s June 1 to Sept. 15 rainfall total of 8.79″ was the third driest for that site since 1925, according to the Climatology Office.

Even though coastal areas had received sufficient amounts of rain, the committee decided to include Colleton County because its inland region were much drier than other areas of the state.

The persistent below normal rainfall and resulting hydrologic impacts in the 9 counties led the SC Drought Response Committee to issue the incipient drought declaration.

S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Hydrologist Scott Harder informed the committee that the Edisto and Salkehatchie River basins have been the driest overall in South Carolina, experiencing persistent low streamflow conditions over much of the past two to three months.

The State Climatology Office is part of DNR.