Second witness charged in I-85 fire: 'I got scared and I started running'

by: Mark Winne Updated:

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ATLANTA - As crews work to rebuild a collapsed portion of Interstate 85, only Channel 2 Action News is talking to key witnesses about what they saw in the moments leading up to the massive fire that caused the destruction. 

Basil Eleby has been arrested and charged with arson and criminal damage in connection with the fire. 

ATF investigators told Channel 2 Action News that they are considering federal charges for Eleby. 

Sophia Brauer and Barry Thomas, who said they are homeless, were under the bridge the day of the fire.

"The guy came down there and he moved the chair from one spot to the next. He put the chair on top of the shopping cart. He reached up under the shopping car," Thomas said. "I didn't think anything about it, when I looked back I seen smoke coming out of the chair and I saw it up against that pipe."


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Thomas said he immediately tried to get away from the smoke.

"I panicked. I got scared and I started running. I hollered at her (Brauer), she jumped up and we went out to the highway," he said.  

Investigators asked him about Eleby's character. 

"I told them I don't know if he's crazy or not. I said but if he smokes crack he's probably crazy," he said. 

Thomas told Channel 2's Mark Winne that he had no issue cooperating with the officers. 

"I said if I get in trouble, I get in trouble," Thomas said.

Brauer and Thomas were cited for criminal trespass and released. 

They said they have both known trouble in their lives and living under the bridge had become their lives. 

Thomas said he is picking up construction work when he can to get by.