Federal Report Finds Georgia DOT Contributed to I-85 Bridge Fire
ATLANTA, GA. – April 11, 2018 (wsbtv.com) A federal investigative report has found that the Georgia Department of Transportation is partially at fault in the fire that destroyed a section of Interstate 85 last year.*
On March 30, 2017, Basil Eleby was homeless and using drugs under the bridge on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, just north of where the interstate merges with Interstate 75. He set fire to a stuffed chair that was on top of a plastic shopping cart under the bridge. The fire quickly spread to high-density plastic conduit stored under the bridge, and the bridge was enveloped in flames. The Georgia DOT was storing that conduit under I-85 at the time, as it had been using this area to store numerous construction materials.
The bridge ended up collapsing, and Eleby was charged with arson. His case was transferred to Fulton County Behavioral Health Treatment Court, several months later however. The charges will be dismissed, provided he completes a mental health program through the court system.
Following the fire, the National Transportation Safety Board began an investigation into the bridge collapse. The NTSB has now released its report about the investigation. While it does not assign blame, the board has found and detailed in its report that the Georgia DOT’s decision to store materials in that area — along with its failure to assess the fire risk of those materials — contributed to the bridge collapse.
In response, the Georgia DOT said it had immediately moved the materials and had helped the NTSB prepare its report. The department also said it was “hopeful that these recommendations from the NTSB [would] be instrumental for the other relevant agencies and Departments of Transportation across the country to prevent instances like this from happening elsewhere.”
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