Suspect charged after allegedly driving through Oconee Nuclear Station gate

Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 10:30 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2023 at 10:23 AM CDT
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OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said a suspect is in custody following an incident at the Oconee Nuclear Station Thursday night.

Deputies said the situation began when they responded to the plant at around 8:05 p.m. Thursday night after someone reported that a car had driven through the exit side of the gate on the part of the facility facing Highway 183.

According to deputies, once the driver hit the pop-up barricades that plant security activated, they backed the vehicle up and went down a dirt road where Duke Energy security members blocked the car in.

“The security measures in place at the at the plant itself prevented this individual from basically going any further,” said Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw.

Deputies stated that the driver then drove through a fence after trying to hit the security officers there. There, the driver drove out of the plant’s exit, where he tried to hit a security member’s truck before going back onto Highway 183 and eventually to a property on Jones Mill Road in Pickens County, where the property fired warning shots, causing a Duke Energy security following the driver to back off.

Duke Energy said the car was able to enter the administrative gate but was not able to access the plant due to its multiple layers of security. Thankfully, no one was injured.

During a press conference on Friday, the Sheriff’s Office identified a person of interest as Doyle Whisenhunt, from Lockesburg, AR. Deputies confirmed that the car used during the incident was found between the Central and Six Mile areas of Pickens County.

The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office said the car was found just before 3:00 p.m. deep in the woods near a private residence near Stoneybrook Circle, where it appeared to have gotten stuck. Deputies in Pickens County said while they were searching the area, they received a call from someone who said they were searching their father’s vacant property when they found the Whisenhunt inside the house.

The resident who found Whisenhunt told us he held him at gun point until deputies arrived to make the arrest.

Deputies took Whisenhunt into custody and turned him over to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office where he was charged with attempted murder, malicious injury to personal property, and unlawful entry into an enclosed place. Whisenhunt was also charged with hit-and-run for an unrelated accident that happened yesterday on Rochester Highway.

The Sheriff’s Office says its still unclear why the suspect drove to the plant. Sheriff Crenshaw said security guards questioned his state of mind.

“It appeared to be something not quite right you know with this individual whether it was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, obviously we don’t know at this point,” he said during the press conference.

Duke Energy mentioned that nuclear stations are protected 24 hours a day by armed, well-trained security officers. Advanced surveillance equipment and physical intrusion barriers consisting of concrete structures and razor wire surround the site.

Components of this program include but are not limited to – personnel screening, access controls, barriers, intrusion detection and monitoring equipment.

On Saturday, November 4, Whisenhunt appeared before a judge where he received a combined surety bond of $320,500 for all charges, including a charge for drugs distributed etc. of methamphetamine third sub. excludes manufacturing.

The company said this Oconee Nuclear Station is operating safely as of Friday.