Person of interest sought after car crashes through security barriers at South Carolina nuclear power plant

By | November 3, 2023

Authorities in South Carolina are searching for a person of interest a day after a man drove a vehicle through security barriers at a nuclear power plant.

The incident occurred at the Oconee Nuclear Power Plant Thursday evening, according to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. A man driving a silver 2002 Toyota Camry twice approached the restricted area but never entered the plant, officials said.

The driver also tried to hit a security truck with a guard on board as it was leaving the factory, police said.

Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw identified the person of interest as Doyle Wayne Whisenhunt, 66, of Lockesburg, Arkansas. He is wanted on drug and weapons charges out of Arkansas, the sheriff said. Investigators are working to determine whether Whisenhunt was the driver of the Toyota Camry, Crenshaw said.

It’s unclear why the driver went to the nuclear plant, the sheriff said.

“At this point in our investigation, we have no evidence that this was any type of domestic terrorist event,” Crenshaw told reporters at a press briefing Friday afternoon.

Crenshaw said potential charges against a suspect apprehended in the incident could include trespassing, intentional injury to property “and possibly attempted murder, in regards to his action toward one of the security guards “.

The driver of the Toyota Camry first approached the nuclear plant Thursday evening, then drove away when security asked him to leave, authorities said. About an hour later, he returned and walked through an administrative gate, the sheriff’s office said.

“After the vehicle struck the retractable barricades activated by plant security, the driver reversed and drove onto a dirt road, where Duke Energy security blocked the vehicle, according to deputies,” a stated an Oconee press release. The county sheriff’s office read. “The driver then drove through a fence after attempting to hit the security guards.”

The driver then allegedly left the factory exit where he attempted to hit a security truck in which a guard was traveling, police said.

The man drove into Pickens County and stopped at a residential property on Jones Mill Road, where shots were then fired, authorities said.

The homeowner told authorities he fired warning shots and the suspect left, Crenshaw said.

The Toyota Camry was located Friday afternoon in Pickens County, Crenshaw said. It was unoccupied, he said.

The nuclear plant reported the security incident to authorities around 8:05 p.m. Thursday, the sheriff’s office said. No one was injured, Duke Energy said.

The nuclear plant is “operating safely,” Duke Energy said.

“Duke Energy has comprehensive security plans and well-trained security personnel in place,” the company said in a statement. “A vehicle passed through an administrative gate, but was unable to access the plant due to our multiple layers of security.”

The FBI said it was aware of the incident, but relied on the local sheriff’s office for any information related to the case.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the body that oversees nuclear power plants in the United States, told ABC News that the incident was “closely monitored throughout the night,” and said Duke Energy had informed the commission proactively.

“The plant continues to operate safely, the public remains safe, and all U.S. nuclear power plants are operating at their normal safety levels,” a spokesperson said.

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