October 25, 2014

Report: Flight instructor in fatal Mt. Pleasant crash was not certified

Federal investigators now say a pilot who was training another person when both were killed in a plane crash at the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport last month was not a certified instructor.

The preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report into the August 14 crash was released Wednesday. It did not give a cause for the crash that killed both 20-year-old Matthew Gaither of Johns Island and his flight instructor 33-year-old Graham Borland of North Charleston. Both men died when the single-engine Cessna crashed into a marsh shortly after takeoff.

According to the report, witnesses told the NTSB investigators that the plane “immediately looked unstable” as soon as it took off. Once the airplane reached about 100 feet above ground level, the witnesses said it entered a continuous left turn and subsequently rolled wings level on a westerly heading. The report adds the airplane then entered a nose down attitude followed by a right wing low attitude and was in a “straight downward dive” when it hit the ground.

In its investigation, the agency said Federal Aviation Authority records indicate that Borland did not actually possess a flight instructor’s certificate, although he had been certified as a commercial pilot.

Gaither’s father, who co-owns Hanger Aviation in Charleston, told WCIV-TV that he had thought Borland was a licensed instructor when his son began taking lessons a week before the crash.

The NTSB says it may take a full year for a complete investigation. The agency traditionally releases a preliminary report a month of a plane crash to detail their initial findings, but does not usually determine a cause until it has time to better analyze the wreckage and flying conditions.

Anderson teen sues DMV after being told to remove his makeup


Chase Culpepper prepares to take questions from reporters shortly after the lawsuit was filed

Chase Culpepper prepares to take questions from reporters shortly after the lawsuit was filed

An Anderson teen is suing the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV), saying the agency forced him to remove his makeup in order to get a driver’s license photo.

Chase Culpepper, 16, is a male who considers himself non-gender conforming and usually wears makeup and women’s clothing. According to a complaint filed in federal court Tuesday, Culpepper had passed a driving test and other requirements for a license when he went to the SCDMV office in Anderson on March 3. However, a supervisor at the office told Culpepper he could not take the photo while wearing mascara, eye shadow, and lip gloss. Culpepper said he eventually agreed to wash the makeup off in a bathroom in order to take the photo.

The complaint filed by Culpepper’s mother (since Chase is a minor) states the teen felt humiliated because the Anderson manager Tammy King had confronted him in public, and ordered him to remove his makeup within hearing of other DMV customers.

“I want to be myself and have a driver’s license photo that reflects that,” Chase Culpepper told reporters in a Tuesday press conference. “I should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to discrimination and so should other non-gender conforming people like me.”

DMV policy does not allow a person to “purposely alter his/her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his/her identity.” But Culpepper’s attorney Marshall Winn said that policy is too vague and potentially unconstitutional because a branch office in a different part of the state could interpret the rule differently.

“We are concerned if the DMV’s policy meets the U.S. Constitution’s standards,” Winn told South Carolina Radio Network. “And it clearly does not.” He argued Culpepper was not “altering” his appearance in the photo because the teen normally wears makeup.

DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. In previous interviews, Parks had said the Anderson office was appropriately following SCDMV policy.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund is actively involved in the lawsuit. Executive Director Michael Silverman said Culpepper has a right to take the photo with makeup. “It is not the role of the DMV or any government agency or employee to decide how men and women ‘ought’ to look,” he told reporters. “Chase should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination.

Silverman said the lawsuit seeks to allow Culpepper to retake his photo. It is not seeking any monetary damages. he said.

Commission approves deal for major Upstate interchange construction

2012 map shows SCDOT's preferred plan for I-85/I-385 improvements (Courtesy: SCDOT)

2012 map shows SCDOT’s plan for I-85/I-385 improvements (Courtesy: SCDOT)

South Carolina’s transportation department is now moving forward on its largest project in nearly 13 years.

The state Transportation Commission on Thursday approved a contract for Flatiron-Zachry Joint Venture to revamp the Interstates 85-385 intersection in Greenville County.

The $231 million project is the most expensive overseen by the South Carolina Department of Transportation since it awarded a contract for the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston Harbor back in 2001.

Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore said the project will be helped with $80 million in bonds approved by legislators under Act 98 approved last year. “The interchange has an average daily traffic count of 194,000 vehicles,” Poore told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s not really designed to handle that much traffic safely.”

Poore said the contractor will 1035 days (about two years and 10 months) to complete the project once a Notice-To-Proceed order is issued by SCDOT.

Victims identified in Mount Pleasant plane crash

Federal investigators are now on the scene of a small plane crash near the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport that killed two people Thursday morning.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Transportation Safety Board will examine the wreckage of the Cessna 150 for evidence of why the plane crashed while taking off shortly after 11:30 a.m.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has identified the victims as 20-year-old Matt Gaither of Johns Island and 33-year-old Graham Borland of North Charleston, a flight instructor.

A statement from the Charleston County Aviation Authority said the wreckage was found in a grassy area approximately 200 yards from the north end of the airport’s sole runway.

The plane was registered to Hanger Aviation out of Johns Island. When contacted by the Charleston Post & Courier, the company said had been leasing out the plane for two weeks.

Another pilot who witnessed the crash told the Moultrie News he watched the plane struggling to get into the air. The witness said the pilot turned around to come back and the plane nosedived into the ground.


Greer road closed indefinitely after washout


Aftermath of the washed-out Memorial Drive in Greer (Image: SCDOT)

Aftermath of the washed-out Memorial Drive in Greer (Image: SCDOT)

Parts of Memorial Drive in Greer will be closed for several months after flooding this past weekend washed out a section of the road.

South Carolina Department of Transportation District 3 maintenance engineer Jason Allison said a 96-inch drainage pipe could not handle the runoff from an estimated six inches of rain the area received Saturday night.

Once it started undermining the roadway, it didn’t take long for it to… wash out the dirt on one side of the pipe and create a void there,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Pipe’s still intact. Pipe’s still in place, it just washed everything away.”

Allison said it will take months to rebuild the road, especially since engineers are deciding if they want to change the culvert’s design.

SCDOT said two vehicles became trapped after they attempted to cross the washed out culvert and roadway Saturday. Four people were rescued and two were taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The damaged culvert is located on Memorial Drive just west of Tryon Street near the Second Baptist Church in Greer. Drivers needing to go around the closed road will need to take a 2-mile detour.