April 19, 2014

Boats banned under Ravenel Bridge during Cooper River Bridge Run


Ravenel Bridge (File)

Ravenel Bridge (File)

Boaters will not be allowed to travel underneath the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in Charleston during Saturday morning’s Cooper Bridge Run.

The Coast Guard said Monday that it will establish a “security zone” on the Cooper River beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and last until 9:30 a.m.

It’s part of increased security along the 10K run’s route in response to last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis said the bomb made city officials rethink safety at one of Charleston most popular events, with more than 40,000 people expected to attend this year.

“We took a look at the security plans and realized that we needed to do things differently,” he told South Carolina Radio Network on Monday.

The security zone will begin 200 yards north of the Ravenel Bridge and extend south to a line between the Charleston Maritime Center and the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant.

People and vessels will be prohibited from entering, transiting through, anchoring in, or remaining within the security zone unless authorized by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port or his designated on-scene representative. The security zone will be enforced by federal, state and local agencies.

Sheree Bernardi of Charleston station WTMA contributed to this report

“Emma’s Law” headed to House floor

A bill that would require breathalyzers to be installed on the cars of some convicted DUI drivers is headed to the South Carolina House of Representatives floor.

Steven Andereck of the ignition interlock manufacturing company SmartStart shows how the breathalyzer works in a 2013 demonstration

Steven Andereck of the ignition interlock manufacturing company SmartStart shows how the breathalyzer works in a 2013 demonstration

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced the bill, known as “Emma’s Law.” The legislation would expand the ignition interlock devices to cover any driver convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher, which is nearly twice the legal .08 limit. The devices are currently required after a second conviction in South Carolina.

The bill passed the Senate last year with a .12 minimum, but House members supported a higher number. Rep. Chris Murphy, R-Summerville, said he wanted to match the law with either the .08 or .15. triggers that are already in place. But the bill’s supporters said drivers with a .12 BAC still cause fatal accidents.

The legislation is named after Emma Longstreet, a six-year-old Midlands girl who died after her family’s van was struck by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day 2012. Her parents David and Karen have been fighting a public battle to get support for the law.

The committee meeting often got heated, pitting legislators who work as attorneys in their private lives against others with law enforcement or non-legal backgrounds.

The committee narrowly rejected a proposal by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, would allow first time offenders to plead guilty, pay $300, and get an ignition interlock device. But they would be able to have that record expunged after three years without any further offenses. The measure failed to pass in an 11-11 vote.

More details, but still no cause, released in Hartsville plane crash

Federal investigators have released new details on a Hartsville plane crash that killed three people earlier this month.

The National Transportation Safety Board has filed a preliminary report on the March 8 experimental plane crash that reveals new details about the flight’s final moments.

According to the report, the amateur-built Lancair IVP plane was having problems with its landing gear before crashing in a neighborhood southeast of the Hartsville Regional Airport. The victims were identified as  75-year-old Leslie Bradshaw from Hartsville, 29-year-old Josh Loflin from Pelzer, and 61-year-old George Rogers from Society Hill. The NTSB said all three men were rated as pilots.

According to witnesses, the pilot had been having problems with the airplane’s landing gear and was receiving a “Gear Unsafe” indication, the report states. Earlier that day, he was seen working on the airplane and when asked about it, the pilot said that he was troubleshooting an electrical problem.

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SCDOT: Could be June before storm debris is cleaned up

Image: SCDOT

Image: SCDOT

The cleanup from last month’s ice storm may last through early summer, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

SCDOT said 725 contract crews have been out along South Carolina highways and interstates clearing the debris in 19 hard-hit counties, which are largely south and east of Columbia. The crews have cleaned up close to 4,300 miles of roads and removed over 1.3 million cubic yards of debris so far, according to an SCDOT release.

But a spokesman said an estimated 460,000 trees still either hang over or lie next to roadways, posing threats to traffic or individuals.

The agency estimated it will cost over $160 million to remove all storm debris. Most of those costs are expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the White House issued an emergency disaster declaration on Wednesday for 21 counties.

Under the Public Assistance Program, state and affected local governments are eligible to apply for federal funding to pay 75 percent of the approved costs for debris removal, emergency services related to the storm, and the repair or replacement of damaged public utilities. How the remaining 25 percent will be covered is to be determined later, according to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Deadline for private property debris removal is March 24

SCDOT is asking that citizens please move all tree debris that occurred on their property during the storm to the state maintained right of way by no later than March 24.

This deadline is only debris from improved residential property with a dwelling and excludes debris from unimproved lots without a residence. It includes only vegetative debris generated by the February 2014 ice storm damages. The SCDOT will perform a final pickup of vegetative debris on the right-of-way of state maintained roads shortly after March 24.

Affected counties include: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Colleton, Dillon, Dorchester, Edgefield, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Marion, Orangeburg and Williamsburg.

Investigators confirm landing gear issues in Hartsville plane crash

Image Saturday night from Darlington County Sheriff's Office

Image Saturday night from Darlington County Sheriff’s Office

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator said there is strong evidence of landing gear troubles on a small experimental plane that crashed into a northern Hartsville neighborhood this past weekend, killing three people.

Lead NTSB investigator Todd Gunther said one of the men on board the plane texted a family member to say that the plane was experiencing a problem with its landing gear. He said Monday that evidence from the wreckage appears to confirm that.

“What we have determined so far is that the landing gear was not up, nor was it down. It (was) in what we commonly refer to as the “in trail” position,” he told reporters during a Monday briefing. “So we are currently digging deeper into that system to determine what may have caused that.” He added that the left gear and main gear were partially extended, while the gear doors on the right side were in the cl0sed position. NTSB officials said they found evidence suggesting someone on the doomed plane had tried to open an inspection panel that would allow them to access the landing gear system.

However Gunther said it was not clear if the landing gear issues caused the crash. He said the plane’s wings were up, which is not the plane’s landing position. But there was no evidence of structural or engine failure and the plane had fuel, investigators said.

Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee identified the three victims as Joseph Loflin II, 29, of Pelzer; his father-in-law George Rogers, 61, of Society Hill; and Leslie Bradshaw, 75, of Hartsville. Officials still have not said which of the three were flying the kit-built Lancair IV-P aircraft.

The turboprop plane was a kit-built aircraft that seated four people. The Federal Aviation Administration had licensed it, Gunther said.

The NTSB crews will continue their work into Monday evening. Gunther said a preliminary report would likely be released in about a week.