By Ema Rose Schumer

NORTH CHARLESTON — The Charleston International Airport was back to normal operations the night of Aug. 1 after a Charleston County Sheriff’s helicopter crashed and officials temporarily halted all commercial flights.

Sheriff Lt. Scott Martray was operating the agency’s sole helicopter when he reported a “malfunction” just before 3:30 p.m., according to sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Knapp. He crashed a short time later on an airfield near South Aviation Avenue, which is located on the opposite side of the airport from the terminal. Although injured, Martray is recovering and in good spirits, Knapp reported.

Martray has been employed with the agency since 2006. He was returning from a trip to Sumter, where the helicopter received routine maintenance, and used his training to “guide it down,” Knapp said. 

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

Martray is one of two pilots employed by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. The helicopter he was flying, a 2012 Bell 407GX, is the only one operated by law enforcement throughout the tri-county, according to Knapp. It was recently used during law enforcement’s sprawling search for Michael Burham, a fugitive captured in May in Berkeley County who was wanted in connection to a murder and rape in New York and a kidnapping in Pennsylvania.

Knapp said the helicopter was severely damaged in the crash and may not be salvageable. 

The Sheriff’s Office has had its own helicopters for years to assist with manhunts, missing person searches, vehicle pursuits and other law enforcement activities.

The agency lost two deputies in June 1992 when their helicopter went down in woods near the Dorchester County Airport as they prepared to search for serial rapist Duncan Proctor. The crash killed Sgt. Hubert Lloyd, the 49-year-old pilot, and Deputy William Nalley, 32, a spotter.

The NTSB concluded that the crash was caused by pilot error because Lloyd, who was not certified to fly by instrument flight rules, had flown into bad weather.

Relatives of Lloyd and Nalley later filed lawsuits claiming that the helicopter’s manufacturer, Enstrom, had installed faulty rotor blades. The lawsuits were settled for an undisclosed amount.

The Aug. 1 helicopter crash comes one day after a single-engine airplane performed an emergency landing on a street in Beaufort County and a banner plane crashed into the surf near Myrtle Beach. All passengers survived both incidents.

Glenn Smith and Warren Wise contributed reporting.