Former Horry County police officer ‘violently’ hurt in deadly plane explosion, suit says

A former Horry County Police officer injured when he rushed to help during a deadly plane crash in 2021 is suing the plane’s owner and the company that conducted maintenance on the plane.

Kevin McLean was knocked off his feet and “violently” thrown backward when the plane exploded after crashing and killing the pilot in the Socastee area on May 21, 2021, according to a lawsuit.

The suit accuses Executive HeliJet Charters, and its owner Jeremy Bass, and Paul J. Smith and PJS LLC, the registered owner of the Piper PA-31P airplane that crashed, according to the suit filed on Feb. 5.

A message left Thursday with Jeremy Bass at Executive HeliJet Charters was not immediately returned. A phone number for Paul J. Smith and PJS LLC was not located.

HeliJet performed an annual inspection on the airplane on May 19, 2021, at Myrtle Beach International Airport, including removing, repainting and reinstalling primary and secondary flight control surfaces, according to the suit. However, when the flight control surfaces were reinstalled, the elevator trim tabs were installed upside down and reversed, the suit said, referring to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

HeliJet released the plane to fly and the plane’s first flight after the maintenance and inspection was at 6:12 p.m. May 21, 2021, when it left the Myrtle Beach airport to fly to the Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach. The plane immediately experienced trouble after taking off, crashing about 6:14 p.m. into a nearby field at 3833 Socastee Blvd., the suit said.

James Marklin Harper, 60, who lived near North Myrtle Beach, died on scene from multiple injuries received in the crash, according to a previous story by The Sun News.

McLean was at the Myrtle Beach International Airport and witnessed the crash. He, and others, rushed to the plane to render aid. As McLean attempted to provide help, the airplane exploded, the suit said.

McLean received severe injuries to several parts of his body, including his head, neck and back. He was rendered sick and disabled and still continues to suffer pain, according to the suit.

The suit is accusing the defendants of negligence, including failing to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules for the inspection and maintenance of airplanes, and negligent hiring, training and supervision.