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Posted: March 31, 2017

3 people in custody in connection with Atlanta I-85 fire

I85
WSBTV.com
I85

By WSBTV.com and Alan Judd, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA —

Three people are in custody after a fire that caused a bridge to collapse on I-85 in Atlanta, according to the state fire marshal's office.

Basil Eleby has been charged with first degree criminal damage to property and two others are charged with criminal trespass. 

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Jay Florence, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Insurance, which includes the fire marshal’s office, identified the three in custody as: Basil Eleby, charged with criminal damage to property; Sophia Bruner, charged with criminal trespass; and Barry Thomas, charged with criminal trespass. 

Related: 7 things to know about the fiery I-85 bridge collapse

All three were taken to the Fulton County jail after being charged following interrogation by investigators Friday afternoon.

“We believe they were together when the fire was set and Eleby is the one who set the fire,” Florence said. 

Florence said officials do not believe anyone else was involved in setting the fire, which quickly engulfed construction materials stored beneath the interstate at Piedmont Road. Allen said the charges could be “upgraded” as investigators develop more evidence.

Related: Officials: Plan for traffic mess after I-85 fire, collapse

Florence declined to say how the fire was started. However, he said the suspects used “available materials” at the site. The Georgia's Department of Transportation is working to determine the extent of the damage caused by the fire.

GDOT began its assessment of the damage Thursday before the fire was even extinguished, Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurray said Friday.

Related: Repairs expected to take months after large fire leads to Atlanta interstate collapse

Demolition crews are already working to remove tons of crushed concrete and look for clues as to how coils of non-combustible high-density plastic pipe, which GDOT stored underneath the bridge, caught fire.

"So the storage area under the bridge was storing normal highway construction materials. The PVC material has been there for some time, probably since 2006 or 7," McMurry said.

The massive blaze started at about 6:15 p.m. Thursday beneath I-85 northbound.

Both northbound and southbound lanes of I-85, as well as several roads in northeast Atlanta, were closed for hours Thursday and into Friday. Interstate 85 will remain closed as crews rebuild the bridge on both sides.


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