Atlanta bridge collapses after man sets fire

By Cait Flynn
Staff Writer

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency after a section of the I-85 bridge collapsed due to a fire on March 30, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The collapse impacted more than 250,000 commuters in one of Atlanta’s main traffic arteries, according to USA Today.

Authorities arrested three people the next day in connection to the fire that caused the collapse.

Basil Eleby, 39, could face 25 years in prison if convicted of felony arson and criminal damage to property charges, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Eleby could face 25 years in prison if convicted for starting the fire. (AP Photo)

According to the same source, witnesses Sophia Brauer and Barry Andrew Thomas were cited for criminal trespass.

Eleby, Thomas and Brauer had planned to meet under the I-85 bridge at 4 p.m. to smoke crack cocaine, but Eleby decided to smoke all of the drugs himself and then started the fire, according to an affidavit filed by the fire department lieutenant, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Atlanta residents will need to rely on alternative transportation routes to commute in and out of the city, as officials said repairs will take at least several months, USA Today reported.

Atlanta officials are looking back to 1996 Olympic plans to determine the most effective traffic plan for commuters.

“We handled the Olympics very nicely in Atlanta and I really think that is the closest comparison from a traffic standpoint with what we’re going to be going through over the next four to six weeks,”  said Kasim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta, according to USA Today.

Newly appointed U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao authorized $10 million to replace the northbound and southbound bridge, with the federal and state governments jointly funding the permanent replacement, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Deal’s Chief of Staff Chris Riley stated that President Donald Trump made a call on March 30 to offer his full support, according to the same source.

Trump has vowed a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, CNN reported.

According to the American Road and Transportation and Transportation Builders Association, Georgia has hundreds of structurally deficient bridges, but I-85 was considered sound, USA Today reported.