Lawyer: Climbers took hobby to extreme

Tomberlin

An attorney for two young men who scaled the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge said his clients mistakenly took their hobby to a perilous place, but a local “parkour” instructor said they missed the point of the pastime.

Defense attorney David Aylor said roommates 21-year-old James Chad Tomberlin and 18-year-old Kahrall Arkeen Wright moved together from Greenville to Charleston a year ago. They took up practicing parkour, also known as free running, in the Upstate and continued the hobby in Charleston.

Parkour involves overcoming obstacles to adapt to the environment, including climbing or jumping over impediments. Aylor said the duo initially practiced parkour in parks and other traditional spaces, but decided they wanted to tackle the bridge 180 feet over the Cooper River on Monday.

“They weren’t out to harm anybody or themselves,” Aylor said. “It was taking an activity that is very healthy, but they took it to the extreme.”

Jason Simpson, owner of Goose Creek Gymnastics, said local parkour enthusiasts questioned the men’s commitment to the movement.

“When you climb up the side of a bridge and get down under it, you’re not doing parkour at that point,” Simpson said. “You’re just doing something stupid.”

Simpson teaches “free running” to students as young as 6 and through adulthood. He starts working with children in a gymnasium setting with mats and padding, encouraging them to climb walls and tumble over obstacles safely.

The point of parkour, Simpson explained, is getting from one point to another by the most efficient path. He uses parkour to train athletes in other sports, such as football and basketball, since it involves constant motion.

“Parkour is not a game, and it’s not a sport, either,” Simpson said. “It’s more of a pastime.”

Tomberlin and Wright’s pastime drew Mount Pleasant and Charleston police and fire departments, the Charleston police bomb squad and a Coast Guard boat out in response to a call that two young men had climbed over the bridge’s railing. The rescue mission disrupted traffic for hours.

Tomberlin climbed back over the railing, according to a police report, but a firefighter wearing a harness and dangling from a ladder truck retrieved Wright from below the bridge. Although they smiled in bond court Tuesday, they issued a public apology through their attorney Wednesday.

“We wish to offer our most sincere apologies to those who were either stuck in traffic or inconvenienced while we attempted to scale the Ravenel Bridge,” the statement said. “We also want to apologize to and thank the police officers and firefighters who came to our aid.”

Mount Pleasant police arrested Tomberlin and Wright on disorderly conduct charges. Both men were released from jail on $262 bail Tuesday.

“At the time, we did not recognize the impact our actions would have and how it could have possibly jeopardized the safety of others who responded to the Ravenel Bridge,” their statement said. “We’ve learned a valuable lesson and again want to apologize to the community.”

Aylor said both men work in the food and beverage or tourist industries and intend to return to school. He said Tomberlin and Wright were “very humbled” by the experience.

“They realize the mistake they made,” Aylor said. “There’s not going to be another issue in Charleston, or anywhere else, where these guys are trespassing or putting anyone at risk.”

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or twitter.com/allysonjbird.