2 arrested in bridge incident

Two men were arrested during rush hour Monday on the Ravenel Bridge. To see more photos from the scene, go to postandcourier.com/galleries.

When officers responded Monday evening to the Ravenel Bridge to find a pair of suspicious men, they came up one suspect short.

They located one, but where was the other?

Stuck beneath the towering span and in need of rescue.

The two men were arrested after one of them had to be hoisted to safety by firefighters.

After the men were taken away, the Charleston police bomb squad was dispatched to check the bridge as a precaution and to make sure the men had not left anything behind.

The incident, which caused the closure of several northbound lanes of bridge traffic at the height of rush hour, began about 5:30 p.m. when Mount Pleasant police got a call from Charleston police, according to Mount Pleasant Police Sgt. Jennifer Backman.

She said someone had called police to say that two males, one white and one black, were walking up the bridge from the Charleston side, carrying backpacks and acting suspiciously. When police arrived on the scene, they found the white male but could not find the black male, Backman said.

The black male had apparently climbed over the side and was under the bridge, she said. An officer who was in Waterfront Memorial Park in Mount Pleasant saw the black male under the bridge and notified the police who were on top of the bridge.

Firefighters from Mount Pleasant and Charleston responded, and a ladder truck was extended and used to lower a firefighter down, with a harness, into the structure under the bridge so he could retrieve the black male.

Both men, whose names were not immediately available, were to be charged with disorderly conduct and taken to the Cannon Detention Center, Backman said.

Backman said nothing consequential was found when the backpacks the men carried were examined.

According to a witness, both of the men climbed where they should not have, but one man may have made it back up before police arrived.

Neil Mann of West Ashley was running on the pedestrian walkway when he saw two men, one in a purple T-shirt and the other in a tank top, climbing around the support beam.

The man in the tank top was hanging on the fence around the Silas N. Pearman Tower. The other was already on the ladder, unprotected from falling more than 180 feet into the Cooper River. But it was the man in the tank top who eventually got stranded beneath the bridge.

“I thought they were workers. They had some backpacks,” Mann said. “But when I ran back up, I saw all the cops.

“The only thing I could think of was that they were doing some work. It looked like it was just easy for them.”

Firefighters from Mount Pleasant lowered a mechanized ladder over the opening and dangled a firefighter into the doughnut-shaped hole. About 15 minutes later, a firefighter emerged with the man. Hanging from the fireman, he was uninjured.

Pedestrians and cyclists who had been kept from using the bridge’s pedestrian walkway grumbled at the inconvenience, but most cheered and clapped when the rescue was pulled off.

The men were handcuffed and taken away in a patrol car.

The incident closed some lanes of traffic for about 30 minutes and one for more than an hour.

Mount Pleasant police are investigating.

Andrew Knapp is editor of the quick response team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.