CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Eastbound lanes of the Don Holt Bridge have reopened as of approximately 9:47 a.m.
The westbound lanes of the Don Holt Bridge heading from Mount Pleasant to North Charleston opened at 7:10 a.m. Thursday, more than 12 hours after netting covering the bridge collapsed onto traffic during Wednesday's afternoon commute.
The reopening of the eastbound lanes was delayed by removal of remaining debris in those lanes.
The SCDOT issued a statement shortly after the westbound lanes reopened which, in part, thanked the public for its patience and thanked local emergency responders for their assistance.
At 4:45 a.m., the SCDOT Twitter account stated,"While crews have made significant progress in removing the fallen tarp, other debris remains to be cleared before the roadway can be safely returned to service."
Netting and cables that collapsed as heavy storms moved through the area were on the bridge because of maintenance being performed on the bridge, Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis said.
An incident report from North Charleston Police states traffic was flowing on the bridge in both directions at 3:09 p.m., when the tarp, netting and wire cables gave way. The first call to the Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch Center was logged at 3:11 p.m. and the first NCPD officer arrived on the scene four minutes later, the report states.
The collapse trapped several vehicles underneath and damaged lights on the bridge, the report states.
Early estimates claimed between 10 and 12 cars had been trapped, but police say seven cars and an 18-wheeler had been trapped beneath the tarp. Of the eight vehicles, only the 18-wheeler was allowed to drive away; the other six vehicles had to be towed off the bridge, the report states.
Some motorists managed to make it across the bridge following the collapse of the netting like Bobbi Jo Grogan who captured video of herself driving across the bridge.
But some of the motorists weren't as fortunate and wound up having to be rescued from their vehicles. Robert Waters was one of the drivers who saw the tarp fluttering like a sail but did not think it was going to come loose. Waters's car was one of the ones trapped in the collapse.
"The rescue crew had to cut the cables so I could get out," Waters said.
He said it took workers a little more than an hour to get him out of his car.
"It looked like something really heavy landed right were the driver side is," he said.
Waters said his windshield was shattered and his side mirror was torn off. His car also had scratches and damage from cables. On Thursday afternoon, he wasn't certain whether his car was beyond repair, but expected to find out from a body shop.
The people in those vehicles were rescued and no injuries were reported. However, several cars were damaged by the falling netting and heavy cables that held it in place. Visible damage included shattered windshields and scratches to hoods.
"One person was transported after being rescued for what appeared to be panic attack," North Charleston Police officials confirmed.
Police said the majority of those trapped were able to make contact with family members and were picked up. Remaining traffic already on the bridge but not directly under the tarp was forced to turn around and take an alternate route.
Crews then began the process of clearing the netting and cables from the bridge as well as other debris. Cars that had been trapped under the tarp had to be towed.
At approximately 6:45 p.m., SCDOT cameras showing the dramatic scene on the bridge went dark as crews were forced to cut power to the bridge for the safety of workers.
At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, enough of the debris had been cleared on the westbound side of the bridge for commercial trucks still stuck on the bridge to be allowed to move off the bridge, but the bridge remained closed.
SCDOT officials had hoped to have the bridge reopened by late Wednesday evening so that Thursday's commute would not be affected, but late Wednesday, word came the bridge would remain closed until approximately 5 a.m. Thursday.
SCDOT spokesman James Law called the process an enormous undertaking. Crews had to carefully clear out pieces of fallen tarp, heavy metal netting and steel cables.
Dozens of people picked up pieces of the twisted, torn tarp and loaded it on an 18-wheeler.
Men were lifted in a bucket truck to take down more potentially dangerous debris.
Eventually, engineers decided to leave part of the tarp and netting intact so the roadway could reopen sooner.
A 911 call released by Charleston County authorities Thursday indicates callers had noticed a possible instability in the covering over the bridge as early as Sunday.
"The Don Holt bridge, where they've covered it up for painting it, the top cover is flapping," the caller said. "It's a huge canvas. I think it could come completely loose and hit cars and cause havoc and lives lost."
In the 911 recording, the dispatcher told the driver he would contact Highway Patrol and inform them of his concern.
Charleston County spokeswoman Kelsey Barlow-Roland said Thursday the 911 call taker informed Highway Patrol dispatch immediately after the call was disconnected. According to Barlow-Roland, Highway Patrol dispatch informed the Charleston County call taker they had received a similar call earlier in the day, and it was determined the cable and netting were secured. However, the Highway Patrol dispatcher reportedly told Charleston County that someone would be sent back out.
The Highway Patrol was working to confirm this information.