By Paul Gable
Nearly two years after evicting Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport for, allegedly, committing numerous safety violations, Horry County now won’t claim the skydiving business committed any violations.
In a cover letter providing 126 documents responding to a Freedom of Information Act request for all public documents associated with Skydive Myrtle Beach safety violations, Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti stated in part, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.” (See full letter below)
What is astounding about that statement is that two years ago the exact same documents were provided to both the Federal Aviation Administration and S.C. Fifteenth Circuit Court as proof of safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach.
In 2014, Skydive Myrtle Beach lodged a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration against Horry County Department of Airports alleging discriminatory actions against Skydive Myrtle Beach by HCDA.
In response, Horry County Department of Airports reported to the Federal Aviation Administration that Skydive Myrtle Beach was the subject of 112 alleged safety violations (contained in the 126 pages of documents) while conducting business at Grand Strand Airport.
On October 7, 2015, the FAA issued a Director’s Determination Report, authored by Randall Fiertz, the FAA Director of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis, in response to Holly’s original complaint, supposedly basing the report on those safety violations.
Fiertz’s determination report included the statement, “Unless immediate steps are taken, up to and including closure of the DZ (drop zone), the County will be considered to be in violation (of FAA Grant Assurance 19).”
Horry County subsequently used this report as an excuse to shut down both the drop zone and Skydive Myrtle Beach operations at Grand Strand Airport.
In a summary of the Director’s Determination by Eduardo A. Angeles, Associate Administrator for Airports for the FAA, in his August 4, 2016 denial of an appeal of the decision, Angeles wrote:
“In his Determination, the Director found that substantial and recurring safety concerns had arisen from the Complainant’s skydiving operation. The Director concluded that the Respondent’s (Horry County Department of Airports) “actions were implemented to mitigate valid and substantiated safety deficiencies” and thus “has not imposed unreasonable restrictions on or unjustly discriminated” against the Complainant, but rather has implemented mitigations that are consistent with its obligations under Grant Assurance 22(h) and (i). [Director’s Determination, pg. 63-64]
In an October 13, 2015, order denying a motion by Skydive Myrtle Beach for an emergency injunction and stay of ejectment, Larry B. Hyman, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, wrote in part, “Horry County, on the other hand, has presented evidence that it faces substantial risk while SDMB is allowed to continue to operate from property belonging to Horry County, including significant exposure to potential liability due to SDMB’s continued misconduct as demonstrated by numerous and ongoing safety incidents threatening persons and property (the above mentioned documents) and possible non-compliance with FAA requirements related to SDMB’s continued hazardous activities on and about the property.”
Horry County and its Department of Airports used the 126 pages of documents to allege safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach to both the FAA and the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court in order to justify evicting Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport.
The above quotes of decisions by both the FAA and Fifteenth Circuit Court judge demonstrate what a key part those alleged safety incidents played in helping Horry County’s cases and hurting Skydive Myrtle Beach.
Now, the Horry County attorney cautions that those same 126 pages of documents “may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.”
If an assessment of the documents has not been undertaken and they may or may not prove anything, how could they have been used two years ago as definitive proof of safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach?
Obviously they couldn’t, but they were!
It now appears that Horry County created an entirely fictitious case of safety violations against Skydive Myrtle Beach in order to shut the business down because it has now backed away from the validity of the evidence it used to make that case.
And so it goes!
Click to view Carotti’s letter. FOIA (1) (Redactions of recipient name made by GSD.)