60-year-old man identified as victim in Socastee plane crash

Grand Strand

SOCASTEE, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler released the name of the person who died in Friday’s plane crash in Socastee.

The coroner’s office says James Marklin Harper died on scene from injuries received in the crash. Harper was 60 years old and lived in the North Myrtle Beach area.

The death is being investigated by the FAA, NTSB and other local authorities.

An off-duty Horry County police officer who witnessed the crash tried to help but was injured, authorities said.

In a Twitter post, HCPD Chief Joseph Hill said the officer, who hasn’t been identified, was knocked off his feet when the aircraft exploded. He was resting at home Saturday morning after being taken to the hospital. Hill called him a “true hero.”

“Our officers run toward danger every day, and we remain grateful for their commitment to service and to the people of Horry County,” Hill said. “As we celebrate the heroic actions of these first responders, we mourn the loss of the pilot. Our hearts are with this family during an incredibly difficult time.”

The plane crash was reported in the 3800 block of Socastee Boulevard, according to Horry County Fire Rescue.

The plane was registered to PJS, LLC based in North Myrtle Beach, according to FlightAware. The website shows the plane is a Piper Navajo PA31. Data from FlightAware shows the plane took off from Myrtle Beach International Airport at 6:12 p.m. and shows a flight path that ends near the location of the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it is investigating the crash and an investigator is expected to arrive on scene Saturday.

Two witnesses told News13 they saw the plane going down and went over to help.

“We saw this plane going super low overhead, heard a noise like a bang or a pop and just ran over across the street through the traffic seeing if we could help, seeing what happened,” Sarah Ortega said.

“It come right above the trees and you could see it dropping, so I grabbed my cell phone and called 911 and told them that a plane was going down,” Yana Mintz said. “I heard someone say they smelled gas. I was too busy trying to find somebody, and then it just exploded.”

“I’m just thankful it’s in an open field,” Ortega said. “I can’t believe how they didn’t hit any of these wires and luckily none of these houses, the restaurants.”

Socastee Boulevard was closed for some time but has since reopened. No other information was immediately available.

Count on News13 for updates to this developing story.

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