‘Lord don’t let this thing explode’

DeKalb County resident recalls I-85 bridge collapse incident

Decatur resident Christopher Brown, 47, said he’s thanking his lucky stars after driving through Interstate 85 in Atlanta while it was on fire.

Brown, leaving a photo shoot, said he arrived just as the fire began. According to reports, the bridge caught fire around 6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m. the bridge collapsed.

“In the midst of getting by the traffic I could see the fire very closely. I just remember thinking ‘Lord don’t let this thing explode,’” Brown said. “I felt my ear get really hot…like my blood was boiling. That’s the most intense heat I’ve ever felt in my life. It was crazy.”

chrsitopher brown 5


Brown said he noticed that traffic was backed up on Interstate 75 and decided to take I-85 north. Going through the curve where I-75 and I-85 merge around the Monroe and Piedmont exit, Brown said he rolled down his window to take a few photos and document the event.

“It’s funny because of the age we live in. In that situation you’re in a position where you should be worried about your safety,” Brown said. “I didn’t even think about my windows being down. The minute I got past the bridge I was thinking it could collapse. Three minutes after I posted the photos to Instagram, my niece told me [the bridge] collapsed.”

Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for Atlanta and Fulton County. The Georgia Department of Transportation closed several ramps on I-85 south indefinitely including Chamblee Tucker Road, Shallowford Road, Clairmont Road and North Druid Hills Road.

Christopher Brown on I-85 NB

Authorities are still unsure of what started the fire, but Deal said it could be related to PVC piping in the area that inexplicably caught fire.

Chamblee High School graduate Doug Cain said he and his wife were stuck in traffic for more than three hours. Cain said he considers the time spent in traffic “impressive” considering the situation.

“We had to turn around on I-85 north going southbound on the wrong side of the highway,” Cain said in an email exchange with The Champion.

Brown said he’s thankful no one was injured in the incident.

“I just want to thank anyone that was involved in the emergency management situation. A lot of times we take that for granted,” Brown said.

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One thought on “‘Lord don’t let this thing explode’

  • April 9, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    This is amazing. We should all be concerned. A total collapse of our security. I understand this interstate overpass I-85 at Piedmont has been used as a storage place for quite a while. The GDOT is trying to get a fix on exactly how long the material had been there, it could have been as long as 11 years.

    The bigger story in all of this is that if some crack head can cause that much damage without any planning to critical infrastructure. It makes you wonder what a group like ISIS or some other terrorist could do.

    Never let a bad situation happen without making something good come of it. This event may have some benefit if we can get a comprehensive regional transportation, rail, and bus system funded and implemented.

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