MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — 2021 was a year full of big local news stories for the Grand Strand and Pee Dee areas.
News13 compiled the 13 most-read local news stories for 2021 based on analytics. Some news events had more than one article. For those, pageviews were combined to calculate the ranking. National and regional stories were not included in this list.
#13. Myrtle Beach reaches settlement with NAACP over Black Bike Week
In October, the City of Myrtle Beach reached a settlement with the NAACP over how the city handled its traffic plan for Black Bike Week. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to pay the NAACP $50,000 and conduct traffic studies. The city was also required to begin hiring for a diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
The settlement is a result of a lawsuit filed in 2020 by the NAACP, which claimed the city’s traffic plan for Black Bike Week was racially motivated because a similar traffic plan wasn’t implemented for Harley Week. A jury found that while the city’s actions were racially motivated, but that the city would’ve made the same decisions if race wasn’t a factor.
#12. Marlboro County superintendent resigns after allowing fraternity to operate on school property
A now-former superintendent with the Marlboro County School District was placed on leave in September after it was discovered that he allowed his fraternity to operate on school property.
Gregory McCord admitted to allowing Omega Psi Phi to operate on the property of Bennettsville Intermediate School without asking the Marlboro County Board of Education, first. The district was paying utilities for the building that was behind the school building.
McCord said he didn’t violate any policy by not going to the school board first, but documents obtained by News13 show that he wrongly said he didn’t violate policy, and was asked to retract his statement by a board member.
McCord said he would pay the district back for any money he was paid while he was suspended. He later resigned from his role.
#11. Myrtle Beach hosts first “Winter Wonderland at the Beach”
The City of Myrtle Beach hosted its first downtown “Winter Wonderland at the Beach” this year. The festival includes an outdoor ice rink, a walk-through lights display and other attractions. The month-long festival was organized by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
The festival was created to “provide a new family-friendly holiday attraction,” according to the city. The festival is open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and from noon to 10 p.m. on weekends (excluding Christmas Day) through Jan. 2 at Burroughs and Chapin Pavilion Place.
#10. Colonial Pipeline hack creates chaos at area gas pumps
Chaos hit the gas pumps across the area as a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline caused it to be shut down. The shutdown caused gas prices to spike and lines at the pumps to grow exponentially. The Colonial Pipeline is the largest pipeline in the United States and supplies about 45% of the gas consumed on the East Coast.
Most agencies in the area were not affected by the gas issues. However, South Carolina received 618 price gouging complaints.
#9. 17-year-old found dead outside Conway church
Angelina Pacheco, a 17-year-old from Conway, was found dead in September outside of Coastal Community Church on Highway 378.
Conway police arrested and charged Chandler Richardson, 19, in connection with the investigation. He’s been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
“He should’ve never left her knowing that she needed some sort of help,” said Christinna Furfari, Angelina Pacheco’s aunt.
Heavily-redacted arrest warrants obtained by News13 allege that Richardson “acting with reckless disregard for the safety of others did cause the death” of Pacheco.
#8. 80-year-old Horry County woman found dead in Marion County
Mary Ann Elvington was reported missing after she was last seen at her home on Highway 76 in Nichols, according to Horry County police. The 80-year-old woman’s 2012 Buick LaCross was found unoccupied on Bobby L. Davis Boulevard in Marion County.
Elvington’s body was found on Zion Road near Zion Grocery, according to Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson. That’s about 10 miles from where her vehicle was found.
Dominique Devonah Brand, 29, of Marion, was charged in a three-count indictment with kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death, and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death of a person in such a manner to constitute murder.
Brand held Elvington at gunpoint in her car, according to warrants obtained by News13. The warrants also show that Brand had a shotgun and ultimately shot her, causing her death.
The indictment alleges that on around March 28, Brand entered the home of Elvington in Nichols and kidnapped her. The indictment further alleges that Brand forced Elvington to drive him in her 2012 Buick Lacrosse to Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, and then back to Lakeview, South Carolina.
#7. Spirits sink as flight cancellations leave passengers stranded at Myrtle Beach International Airport
In August, Spirit Airlines saw major issues that resulted in thousands of flights being canceled across the country and left passengers stranded at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
A News13 viewer said hundreds of people at the airport were sleeping on the ground, and their luggage was taken, but couldn’t be returned while they wait on their flights.
Rumors were circulating online claiming that Spirit Airlines employees were on a strike, but in a statement to News13, the airline said that is not true, and cited weather and operational challenges for the issues. The airline did not elaborate on what the operational challenges were.
#6. Mother of 6 killed in road rage shooting on I-95 in Robeson County
On March 25, on I-95 just north of Lumberton, Julie Eberly — a mother of six from Pennsylvania — was shot and killed in a road rage incident.
Robeson County deputies said the shooting happened after the vehicle Julie was in came too close to the suspect’s vehicle while trying to merge into a lane. The suspect’s vehicle pulled up to the passenger side of the vehicle and fired shots into the passenger door, hitting Eberly.
Deputies arrested Dejywan Floyd, 29, of Lumberton, in connection with the shooting. He was charged with first-degree murder and discharging a weapon into an occupied property.
The Elberlys were on their way to Hilton Head to celebrate their seventh anniversary, according to a statement from the family.
#5. South Carolinians aren’t recycling oysters
Only about 10% of the 300,000 bushels of oysters consumed each year in South Carolina are recycled, costing the state tens of thousands of dollars to purchase shells from elsewhere, and potentially seriously threatening aquatic habitats.
A lack of recycling has led the SCDNR to have to purchase tens of thousands of bushels of shells from other states — a cost which is fluctuating, and has almost doubled during the pandemic.
Oyster shell recycling bins are mostly clustered around the coast, where most oysters are consumed. But in Horry County, there’s a single public recycling spot, a three-sided wooden bin at a vacant lot at 1860 21st Ave N. And despite being a seafood capital, there’s only one participating restaurant.
#4. Three law enforcement officers killed in crashes in 12 days
2021 started off with three law enforcement officers in our communities who were killed in crashes within a two-week period.
Just after midnight on New Year’s Day, North Myrtle Beach Police Sgt. Gordon Best was killed when he was responding to a call and lost control of his patrol car on the wet roads.
On Jan. 7, Marion County Sheriff’s Office announced Deputy Jonathan David Price, 29, was killed while in the line of duty on Maiden Down Road (Secondary 45) and Jackson Road, according to the sheriff. Price and a driver in another car collided at about 10:50 p.m.. The driver of the other car, Patrick McCormick, 35, of Marion, also was killed, according to Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson.
On Jan. 12, Officer Melton “Fox” Gore was out removing debris from the roadway at about 4 p.m. on Highway 22 near the intersection of Highway 31, when he was hit by a 2007 Mazda SUV, according to officials.
#3. Lumberton mom shot dead with twins in car
A Lumberton mom died in March when she was shot while driving a car with two children in it, according to police.
The woman, who was identified by police as 23-year-old Brittany Hunt, was driving on Meadow View Road near Linkhaw Road at about 2:30 p.m. when she was shot, police said. The shooting caused Hunt to lose control of the car and she crashed into a canal.
A 20-year-old man and her two 5-year-old children were also in the car.
A 16-year-old was arrested in connection with the shooting.
#2. Missing Florida student found dead in Florence County
In September, Sheridan Wahl — a student from Tampa, Florida — was reported missing by her family after she traveled to Myrtle Beach to visit a family member.
A few days later, her body was found behind Hannah-Salem Fire Department on Highway 378 in Pamplico. Wahl was dropped off at the fire station before her death due to “erratic” behavior, according to Florence County Coroner Keith von Lutcken.
She was dropped off by a man who picked her up near Keith Lane, where her crashed car was found burned. Lutcken couldn’t go into detail about what the behavior was.
Lutcken said Wahl’s body was at the base of the tower for approximately 18 hours.
Wahl’s toxicology report showed no illicit drugs or anything of concern in her bloodstream, Lutcken said. He also said there were only minor signs of external injuries, and that most of the injuries were internal due to a fall.
#1. Couple films porn on Myrtle Beach Skywheel, other public places
A couple was arrested in January after being accused of filming porn on the Myrtle Beach Skywheel and uploading it to a popular porn website.
Eric and Lori Harmon, of Surfside Beach, were seen in one video having sex inside a gondola encased with glass and in view of the public on the Skywheel ride on North Ocean Boulevard. The incident happened on or around Jan. 2. In another video, the couple is seen having sex in a community pool in the Surfside Beach section of Horry County. Lori Harmon is seen exposing herself while sitting on top of a vending machine along with other lewd acts, police said.
The Harmons were arrested again in September. This time, they were accused of performing sex acts in an arcade photo booth in Garden City, according to police reports obtained by News13.
In late July, Lori Harmon is accused of sitting on a front porch fully-exposed, according to an arrest warrant. She’s also accused of participating in sexual acts while exposed. Eric Harmon is accused of sharing a video on Twitter.
The Harmons pleaded guilty to indecent exposure in April for the SkyWheel incident. Judge R. Ferrell Cothran sentenced Eric and Lori Harmon to three years in prison suspended upon their service of two years of probation, running concurrently, according to the solicitor’s office.
The couple has also previously been accused of similar acts in a Food Lion parking lot and in a park.