Three people are in custody in the fire that caused the dramatic collapse of an Interstate 85 (I-85) overpass in Atlanta, Georgia, according to WSB-TV.
WSB-TV reported that Basil Eleby was charged “with first degree criminal damage to property and two others are charged with criminal trespass.”
The other two suspects were named as “Sophia Bruner, charged with criminal trespass; and Barry Thomas, charged with criminal trespass,” by AJC.com. The bridge fire snarled traffic and spurred dramatic videos on March 30. The television station reported that Eleby and the other two suspects are in custody “in connection” with the fire.
Tensions were running high.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Authorities Allege That Eleby Started the Fire & Troopers Told Cars to Turn Around Right Before the Bridge Collapsed
Authorities allege that Eleby is the suspect who started the blaze, reported AJC.com, which quoted Jay Florence, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Insurance, as saying: “We believe they were together when the fire was set and Eleby is the one who set the fire.”
According to WSB-TV, “Witnesses say troopers were telling cars to turn around on the bridge because they were concerned about its integrity. Minutes later, the bridge collapsed.”
News11 confirmed the arrests and reported, “Officials still don’t know what materials fueled the destructive fire, but investigators indicate that the three people…are connected to the fire.”
That television station reported that the state Fire Marshal and the Atlanta Fire Department both confirmed the arrests but said the suspects were not yet identified as news first broke.
Traffic came to a standstill on the busy freeway as firefighters battled the fire on March 30. One reporter wrote on Twitter shortly before the collapse of the overpass, “Massive Fire 85 N Bound. Witnesses say Troopers turning all cars around witnesses say concern about integrity of bridge live on @wsbtv now.”
2. The Three Suspects Might Be Homeless & Videos & Photos Captured the Fire & Collapse
Authorities were saying little about the three under arrest, reported AJC, as they were being interrogated. However, they did say that they believe the suspects used “available materials” at the site and “may have been homeless,” the newspaper reported.
People expressed shock on social media.
CNN reported that a section of the bridge had “collapsed in flames.” Aerial views showed a thick black smoke plume obscuring a portion of the freeway.
Motorists stuck in cars expressed shock and posted videos and photos to social media.
3. Eleby Has an Extensive Criminal History & Was Previously Arrested 19 Times
Eleby appears to have a criminal history with multiple previous mugshots, according to Mugshots.com. ABC News reported that all three suspects were in the Fulton County Jail, and that they were interrogated throughout the day, although authorities have not said yet what led them to the trio.
According to 11Alive.com, Fulton County Jail records show Basil Eleby “had been arrested 19 times before for drug, battery, assault and other charges. An April 2014 mugshot shows Eleby after he was arrested for charges related to the sale and trafficking of cocaine.”
Thick black smoke billowed into the sky as the blaze erupted. USA Today reported that “Flames are erupting underneath an Atlanta interstate as black smoke is billowing under all sides. Local officials are on the scene and working to determine a cause.”
Drivers were left stranded:
A portion of I-85 had collapsed.
4. The Stretch of Road Is One of the Busiest in the United States
According to NBC News, the months it could take to repair the bridge could be a major traffic headache. That’s because the road is “one of the busiest stretches of roadway in America,” NBC reported.
“More than 225,000 vehicles travel through the affected area on an average weekday,” according to NBC.
5. The Repairs Will Take Months to Complete
As of March 31, authorities have said very little about the arrests.
According to WREG, officials say it could take months to repair the bridge.
This story will be updated with more information about Eleby and the other suspects as it becomes known.