ATLANTA — A Fulton County Grand Jury has returned an indictment against 39-year-old Basil Eleby for starting the fire that led to the I-85 bridge collapse. The two-count indictment returned April 7 charged Eleby with first degree arson and first degree criminal damage to property.
On March 31, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department responded to a fire burning underneath the I-85 bridge on Piedmont Road. As firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, the I-85 bridge collapsed.
After the fire was extinguished, the fire department located 39-year-old Sophia Brauer and 57-year-old Barry Andrew Thomas. While conducting interviews with the two individuals in conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Thomas stated that he witnessed Eleby set a chair on fire after he placed it on top of a shopping cart.
Investigators concluded that initial fire led to the collapse of the I-85 bridge. The investigators located Eleby and discovered he consumed drugs underneath the bridge prior to the incident. He was subsequently arrested.
Brauer and Thomas were both cited for misdemeanor criminal trespass.
If convicted, Eleby could face 25 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.