Grand Jury indicts man accused of starting I-85 fire

- A Fulton County Grand Jury has returned an indictment against 39-year-old Basil Eleby. The two-count indictment returned Friday charges 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 Interstate 85 Bridge on Piedmont Road. As firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, the I-85 bridge collapsed.

Complete coverage: I-85 Collapse

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.

Investigators located Eleby and discovered he consumed drugs underneath the bridge prior to the incident. He was subsequently arrested.

Georgia DOT: Expect I-85 to reopen by June 15

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.

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