Three Arrested In Connection With Atlanta Bridge Collapse

One of three people charged in connection to the fire that caused a part of I-85 to collapse appeared in court Saturday morning.

Basil Eleby was arrested and charged with first-degree arson for allegedly setting a fire which caused the freeway segment to collapse, along with first degree criminal damage to property.

Two others were given citations for trespassing and were released.

The collapse of a span of Interstate 85 in Atlanta during a raging fire isn't the first time intense heat has taken out a stretch of elevated roadway.

An affidavit obtained by CNN shows Eleby told investigators that he and his companions talked about smoking crack cocaine under the highway overpass.

Experts in structural engineering said fires on highways and bridges rarely burn long enough or hot enough to cause a complete collapse - but it has happened.

But one of the people with him disputed his account.

Police allege that Eleby was high on crack when he put a chair on top of a shopping cart and set it on fire underneath the I-85 underpass.

Eleby's next court appearance is set for April 14.

Basil Eleby, 39, was charged Saturday with first-degree arson in connection with the fire.

"They heard the cracking of the concrete", Atlanta Fire Chief Joel Baker said.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority reported a big rush hour jump in passengers on its northern rail lines Monday morning, up 50 to 73 percent as many commuters sought to avoid the highways altogether.

Officials pledged after Thursday's collapse of a 350-foot section of Interstate 85 that a replacement bridge would be built as soon as possible.

The flames ignited in an area where the state stores construction materials and supplies near the overpass, state Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said.

In the meantime, Deal said state employees are being urged to work from home or use transit.

But even if you have no plans to travel anywhere near Atlanta there's a good chance you depend on goods and products that would likely be transported on Interstate 85.

The flammability of HDPE is relatively low, said Tony Radoszewski, president of the Plastics Pipe Institute, a trade group based in Irving, Texas.

"But in this case, that would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars", the judge said.

"Somebody had to start a fire". "Someone had to do it. It's not like someone would have dropped a match and it started".

No details on how the blaze was started have been released, pending the outcome of investigations. His bail was set at $200,000.

Atlanta's terrible rush-hour traffic got even worse Friday, the morning after a raging fire underneath Interstate 85 collapsed an elevated portion of the highway and shut down the heavily traveled route through the heart of the city. At around 7 p.m. ET, the bridge gave way in a flaming heap that spewed thick, black smoke that could be seen from miles away. Jay Florence, the department's deputy commissioner, said he did not have their ages or cities of residence but also believes all three are homeless.

Eleby says he was in the area under I-85 at Piedmont Road, a location he says he frequents on his way to and from work at a tire shop, according to the source.

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