MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - A couple walking the Ravenel Bridge Thursday night says they will never forget the scene that caused one side of the bridge to be shut down for several hours.
Vittoria Climes and Jimmy Stephens, both of Mount Pleasant, said they were among the first people to come across the man and woman authorities believe had entered a suicide pact and carried it out on the bridge.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten identified the two as William Charles "C.J." Best, Jr., 30, of Summerville, and Lindsey Bedenk, 24, of Colorado.
"[There was] no fight or altercation," Stephens said. "I think they went up onto that bridge knowing they weren't coming back down."
Climes and Stephens spontaneously decided to walk the bridge Thursday night. Both said they had jogged past Best and Bedenk while the two were still alive.
"They were just sitting on the ground with their backs to the guardrail that overlooks the harbor," Stephens said. "They were just sitting there, kind of quiet, talking to each other. Kind of fidgeting around with a backpack. We really didn't think anything of it, we just kept jogging along minding our own business."
"[They were] still in their pajamas, [had] winter clothes [on] on a beautiful night," Climes added.
They decided to leave their cell phones behind, never thinking they would come across the scene they did.
"[It was] really horrifying to see, like a scary movie," Climes said. "You just get this eerie feeling and your stomach kind of flipped upside down."
The runners passed Best and Bedenk around the center of the bridge on the walking path.
Stephens and Climes decided to turn around past the second diamond and head back towards Mount Pleasant when they encountered the shooting scene.
"There was blood coming out of his chest, and you could tell the girl was gone," Stephens said. "Then you saw the gun."
"We came back and you almost had to take a double take," Climes said. "I actually lost my breath."
Climes said she and Stephens ran up to two people telling them to call 911. Then Climes ran down part of the bridge to alert another woman.
"I saw a mother coming up with a stroller and a toddler," she said. "I just said, 'Don't come up here. You don't want your kids to see this.'"
They said the shooting happened in a matter of five minutes, between the time they saw Best and Bedenk alive and dead.
They never heard any gunshots.
"It was really windy up there," Stephens said. "I asked the police officer and he said the wind must have muffled the sound of the shots, or they had it really close to their bodies."
At a news conference Thursday, Wooten said both died from a single gunshot in the mouth.
Officers said both left what appeared to be suicide notes and one left a video saying goodbye to their loved ones.
Police said Best and Bedenk met while receiving counseling for mental health issues.
"There was no argument [when we passed them], I think it was a decision they made together and said you go first then I'll go," Climes said.
"Just have to pray for their families, pray for the kids, whoever is affected by this event," Stephens said. "It's an awful thing to happen."
Mount Pleasant police reassured the public this situation was isolated and not related to the Cooper River Bridge Run. Mount Pleasant Police Chief Carl Ritchie said police do not believe there are any threats to the annual event.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. Operators are waiting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also visit online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
For more information about suicide prevention, visit the National Institute of Mental Health's website.