Ravenel Bridge chaos causes traffic nightmare for drivers

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Philip Oreilly had just left the airport and was on his way to see his wife and children in Charleston after being away for three weeks when he saw traffic on I-526 and decided to take a short cut through the Ravenel Bridge Thursday afternoon.

Little did he know, much less everyone else, that a situation involving a man in an SUV had shut down the bridge.

"I got to I-526 and it was a dead stop, so I thought I'd cheat and cut down I-26," Oreilly said."On the way here, I found out that there was an incident on the bridge and here I am stuck on the base of the bridge."

The Ravenel Bridge opened to traffic around 5:10 p.m. after being shut down for nearly four hours due to a suicidal man, police say.

"It was chaotic. The police were just swarming the area," said John Newland. "I feel bad for the guy and hope he's okay. It's been a crazy, chaotic afternoon."

During the afternoon ordeal, motorists at the top of the bridge were evacuated from their cars. Police went back and forth and gave the drivers water and took some back to East Bay Street to use the bathroom.

All lanes were reopened after 38-year-old Phillip DeClemente who was threatening to harm himself on the bridge was arrested. Traffic on Interstate 526, Highway 17 and I-26 was backed up for miles during the incident.

"I had to go get some material from North Charleston and I came over the bridge from Mount Pleasant," said Sparky Witte. "And the sign said there was a wreck on the bridge...the traffic was already wall to wall."

A police negotiator was used to help DeClemente surrender. He will be taken to MUSC for evaluation.

"We're just thankful that it ended peacefully," said Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis.


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