‘He was always there for me’: Son of pilot killed in Socastee Blvd. plane crash remembers him

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 7:04 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The family of the pilot killed in a plane crash said he died doing what he loved.

James Harper, 60, lost his life after his plane went down Friday night along Socastee Boulevard.

On Monday, crews removed what was left of the small, mangled aircraft.


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Harper’s son, Bradley, said his father was a very experienced pilot. He’s still in disbelief about what happened.

“He was always there for me and basically my best friend,” Bradley said.

Bradley recalled childhood memories of racing motorcycles with his dad.

“He liked cars, motorcycles, anything fast that made noise and had an engine,” he said.

However, it was Harper’s fascination for aviation that soared above it all.

“He flew for a living, 35,000 hours,” Bradley said. “Been doing it all his life since he was 14 years old.”

Harper had a vacation home in North Myrtle Beach, but he lived in North Carolina where he was a flight instructor. American Airlines also confirmed that Harper had been employed with the airline and it had extended its deepest sympathies to the family.

Bradley said his father touched many lives and helped to jumpstart people’s careers in aviation.

“Anyone he met he wanted to tell them all about it and show them everything he knew and pass his knowledge down,” Bradley said.

It’s knowledge he used to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“He purposely wanted me to have my pilot’s license and fly an airplane by myself before I could legally drive a car,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Harper’s plane crashed after leaving the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

His plane plummeted to a field along Socastee Boulevard away from homes and businesses in the area.

Bradley said his father could’ve easily landed somewhere else, but with the little control he had, he did everything he could to make sure no one else got hurt.

“That was his biggest thing. He never wanted to hurt anybody. He put it there for a reason,” Bradley said. “He knew he wasn’t going to make it.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating what caused the plane crash.

Stay with WMBF News for updates.

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