A homeless man in Atlanta is being accused of collapsing a highway overpass, after he deliberately set it on fire after smoking crack-cocaine.
Basil Eleby is a 39-year-old Georgia resident who has more than 19 arrests under his belt. Most of those were drug related offenses. This time, Eleby was charged with first-degree arson.
Eleby and two other friends, who have also been arrested for the crime, all gathered underneath the overpass to discuss if they would smoke the crack together. The friends, however, left, and Eleby was believed to be alone when he smoked the crack and set fire to the bridge.
The Daily Caller says:
Eleby was charged with arson after officials determined the fire was intentionally and ‘maliciously set’, Atlanta Fire Department spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford said to The Washington Post.
The arrest affidavit accuses the threesome of gathering under the bridge and discussing if they would smoke crack together.
‘We believe they were together when the fire was set and Eleby is the one who set the fire,’ Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence told the AJC.
Eleby admitted in the affidavit that he often visited the area as he was heading to and from work at a nearby tire shop and that he was there right before the blaze erupted. He told investigators he had talked to Thomas and Bruner about taking the drug together, the document continued.
Eleby said he decided to smoke alone and left the area before the fire was set, although Thomas told investigators that he saw Eleby start the fire by placing a chair on top of a shopping cart, then reaching under the cart and ignited it, according to the warrant.
Florence would not mention how the fire was started or why, as he said that information would be released as the investigation progresses.
However, he said the suspects used ‘available materials’ at the site.
Florence did not have ages or hometowns of Bruner and Thomas, whom are being held at the Fulton County Jail.
He didn’t say how they ended up being suspects but noted they were interviewed throughout the day and law enforcement subsequently made the arrests.
On Friday, crews were seen working to restore the bridge after the blaze collapsed a portion of I-85.
Atlanta residents will likely face travel chaos as construction crews repair the fragmented section of the exceptionally busy motorway.
Officials have said that the reconstruction of the damaged areas could take several months – prompting a travel disaster for more than 225,000 vehicles that use the segment of the roadway daily.
The city’s first responders said part of the highway collapsed due to the fire that broke out under the bridge.
ABC News reporter Steve Osunsami described the future for commuters in the area to be a ‘traffic migraine,’ and said that he expects his commute to double, as he lives just a mile from the site of the incident.
There were no reports of casualties in the incident and no cars fell from the motorway during the fire, which is nothing short of a miracle given the usually crowded rush hour traffic in the area.
Firefighters on the scene saved the lives of many after noticing cracks in the foundation and ordering an excavation of the area.
Atlanta Fire and Rescue said on Twitter at the time that all lanes were blocked and that residents should avoid the area.
Video from the fire department posted on their Instagram page showed firefighters battling the massive blaze.
The department wrote in the video’s caption: ‘*Major Emergency* Heavy Fire showing under Interstate 85 in Buckhead. 2nd alarm requested. Atlanta Fire on scene.’