Published: Sun, April 02, 2017
USA | By Cassandra Hanson

3 arrested in Atlanta fire and overpass collapse


Three people were arrested Friday in connection with a raging fire that collapsed an elevated part of Interstate 85 in Atlanta and shut down the heavily traveled route through the heart of the city.

Sophia Bruner and Barry Thomas face criminal trespassing charges, Florence said.

(WSB-TV via AP). In this aerial image made from a video provided by WSB-TV, a large fire that caused an overpass on Interstate 85 to collapse burns in Atlanta, Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Basil Eleby is charged with first-degree criminal damage to property, a felony.

Thomas and Brauer each have been charged with criminal trespassing, the sergeant said.

McMurry, the state transportation boss, said it wasn't immediately clear what started the fire at the state's construction-equipment storage area near the bridge.

Florence didn't say how investigators came to suspect the trio, or say anything about a motive.

While the highway is normally jammed with cars around that time, there were no fatalities, Mayor Kasim Reed said.

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"He hasn't been charged with arson yet, but we do believe he's responsible for this fire", Sgt. Stafford said. The area where these pipes were stored is also frequented by homeless people looking for shelter.

The closure comes at a sensitive time for a city accustomed to gridlock.

Friday, traffic was bumper to bumper on nearby streets as drivers were forced to take a detour the morning after the blaze caused the concrete to crumble. It shut down traffic in both directions - and destroyed about 700 feet of highway, according to local NBC affiliate 11 Alive. Demolition of these sections started Friday and will last into Monday, McMurry said. A trade group, the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association, says PVC pipes are combustible, but the material generally doesn't keep burning when a flame source is removed. It grew into a massive fireball, sending thick smoke onto the highway above.

The man accused of arson in a fire that collapsed part of an elevated interstate in Atlanta, triggering what's expected to be months of traffic complications in one of the nation's most congested cities, is being held on $200,000 bond, a Fulton County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said.

Firefighters noticed chunks of concrete falling from the bridge and got out of the way just minutes before it collapsed, Stafford said. "Not even two minutes later, the highway fell with a big 'kaboom.' (It) knocked our guys back". She typically drives, often by way of the interstate.

Atlanta officials say a massive fire that burned for more than an hour and caused the collapse of an interstate overpass has been extinguished.

A piece of highway collapsed amid the fire, which raged on for hours.

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Black smoke can be seen for miles. She said she was told to walk despite being disabled, "but it's raining and dark".

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