Two Wilmington men were arrested early Saturday morning after jumping off of the Causeway Drive bridge and prompting Wrightsville Beach officials to conduct a helicopter search for the missing swimmers.
Wrightsville Beach police charged Jordan Matthew Phillips, 26, and Gentry Lee Johnson, 25, both of Wilmington, with resisting arrest and jumping from a bridge after the two were spotted running in their underwear near North Channel Drive sometime after 3 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26. Police had responded to a call at about 2:30 a.m. for two missing swimmers after they didn’t return to shore following a jump from the bridge into Banks Channel.
The caller told police she had had also jumped off of the bridge with the two men, but they had not returned to the shore. Kelly McDevitt was also issued a citation for jumping off the bridge, but not arrested. The caller told police that she walked about eight blocks in the area of Live Oak Drive looking for the men before calling 911.
The time lapse between when the missing swimmers entered the water and when they were reported missing sparked a quick response from local authorities, who brought in the Wilmington Police Department SABLE helicopter and a Coast Guard search boat.
“Given the current and the wind conditions, it upped our response,” Wrightsville Beach Police Capt. J. Bishop said.
However, it wasn’t the search vessels that found the missing swimmers, who were instead first spotted by a citizen while running in the area of North Channel Drive near the First Baptist Church. Police responded to the area after the call and spotted the two suspects, who cut across 2nd Avenue to Coral Drive, before being apprehended and taken to the New Hanover County Jail. Both were charged with resisting arrest for running from officers, Wrightsville Beach police said, and Johnson was charged with first-degree trespassing after running through the yard of a private residence while trying to elude police.
Both men were released from jail on Saturday after each posted a $10,000 bond. Bishop described the bond as “unusually high,” which he said probably reflected the resources that went into the 45-minute search for the men.