Skydive Owners Lawsuits Against Horry County Consolidated

By Paul Gable

The eleven tort claims lawsuits against Horry County et al. filed by former owners and employees of Skydive Myrtle Beach have been consolidated into one tort claim case with eleven plaintiffs per a judge’s order granting consolidation filed on August 31, 2018.

Originally filed Pro Se, the 11 owners have joined together to hire attorney Robert Varnado. Varnado will be filing an amended complaint consolidating the claims against Horry County, Horry County Department of Airports, various county officials and employees and Robinson Aviation, the contract operator of the control tower at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach.

The Federal Aviation Administration was removed as a defendant previously.

The basic claims of the complaint are conspiracy among the defendants to deprive the respective owners of Constitutional rights with respect to 14thAmendment and due process protections, for interference with the business Skydive Myrtle Beach (SDMB), and with contractual ties between SDMB and HCDA in order to illegally shutdown SDMB.

In early 2014, shortly after Skydive Myrtle Beach reported to the FAA of discriminatory actions against it by the Horry County Department of Airports, the HCDA began circulating stories about alleged safety violations committed by Skydive Myrtle Beach while it was operating out of Grand Strand Airport.

In October 2015, Horry County government ultimately evicted Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport using a 73 page FAA Director’s Determination as justification. Much of the Director’s Determination report was based on 112 safety violations allegedly committed by SDMB.

Neither the county nor the FAA has documented evidence of any investigation or finding of safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach, according to responses to Freedom of Information Act requests filed with both the county and the FAA.

The alleged safety violations were recorded on a form generated by the Horry County Department of Airports, called an “Unusual Incident Report.” HCDA began generating these reports after SDMB filed a claim of discrimination against HCDA. They are one page reports signed either by HCDA staff members or Robinson Aviation personnel. In one case, five alleged violations were reported by letter to the FAA from former HCDA Director Pat Apone.

Despite requests by county attorneys for the cases to be dismissed, they have now been consolidated and will move forward. Discovery was previously ordered. The amended filing is due by September 15, 2018.

By allowing the cases to be consolidated and move forward rather than dismissing them as county attorneys requested, it appears the Court believes there is some merit to the claims of the plaintiffs.

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