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Atlanta I-85 collapse: Suspect spoke of smoking crack, warrant says

The man accused of setting the fire that destroyed part of I-85 in Atlanta talked with companions about smoking crack cocaine before the blaze started, according to a document released Saturday.

The fire collapsed a well-traveled stretch of I-85 — triggering millions of dollars in damage and wreaking havoc on traffic, potentially for months, as the state rebuilds the wrecked section.

>> Visit AJC.com and WSBTV.com for complete coverage of the I-85 fire and bridge collapse

Basil Eleby, 39, was charged on Saturday with first-degree arson in connection with the fire. Wearing a navy jumpsuit, flip-flops and handcuffs, Eleby reluctantly shuffled into a courtroom at the Fulton County jail for his first appearance hearing Saturday morning. 

Judge James Altman announced the arson charge, which was added on top of an earlier felony charge of criminal damage to property, and set bond at $200,000. The judge said he had considered an amount more “commensurate” with the damage inflicted. 

>> 3 people in custody in connection with Atlanta I-85 fire

“But in this case,” the judge said, “that would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.” 

Eleby shook his head vigorously when Altman mentioned the possibility of pleading guilty at a future court proceeding. But the suspect said nothing during the brief hearing. 

His public defender had asked the court to let Eleby skip the hearing, but the court refused. The attorney held a green folder up to try to hide Eleby’s face from the media.

Eleby and two others, Barry Thomas and Sophia Brauer, were charged Friday in connection with the fire. (Brauer earlier was identified by a different last name, but she was listed in the document released Saturday as “Brauer.” The discrepancy could not be resolved on Saturday.) 

>> Repairs expected to take months after large fire leads to Atlanta interstate collapse

Thomas and Brauer were charged with criminal trespass. Eleby, who has been arrested 19 times since 1995, mostly on drug charges, according to jail records, is facing far more serious charges. 

According to an affidavit by a fire department lieutenant, the suspect admitted to frequenting the area where the fire was set and acknowledged being there on Thursday afternoon at about the time the fire started.

Eleby told investigators from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that he’d met Thomas and Brauer there at about 4 p.m. and they “discussed smoking crack cocaine together.” 

>> 7 things to know about the fiery I-85 bridge collapse

But Eleby ultimately decided “he would consume the drugs by himself” and “left the area before the fire started,” according to the affidavit, which was prepared in support of Eleby’s arrest warrant. 

Thomas told a different story. 

“Mr. Thomas watched Basil Eleby place a chair on top of a shopping cart, reach under the shopping cart and ignite it,” said the affidavit, which was released on Saturday.

Thomas told authorities he and Brauer then fled in the opposite direction of Eleby, it said. 

>> Last inspection on I-85 bridge that collapsed given good marks

As Eleby appeared in court Saturday morning, Georgia Department of Transportation crews continued their around-the-clock work to deal with the damage that Eleby is accused of causing. 

Six sections and about 700 feet of roadway on I-85 — 350 feet in each direction of travel — are being removed and replaced, including support columns. The northbound section collapsed during the fire, but the southbound lanes also were compromised, authorities said. Demolition work has begun on those lanes, as well. 

An exact timeline for the interstate to be completely restored is unclear, but the work is expected to take months. 

>> Read more trending news

There was a bit of good news Saturday. After the collapse, people traveling northbound on the Downtown Connector were funneled onto I-75 North, with no option to take I-85 North at the split.

About 10 a.m. Saturday, however, transportation officials began allowing northbound traffic on the Connector to proceed north in two lanes of I-85 to the next exit: the Buford-Spring Connector, Exit 86 (Ga. 13). 

GDOT officials encouraged drivers to “still plan to utilize I-285 as the most efficient route of travel” through town. But drivers could choose to use the Buford-Spring Connector to bypass the interstate collapse and then return to I-85 North once past the damaged section.

Uber reveals list of weirdest things left in cars, most forgetful cities

People Uber everywhere and often leave things behind, so the ride-share company decided to launch the The Uber Lost & Found Index on Wednesday. 

It details everything from the most common items lost to the most unique ones. It even cites the most forgetful cities and, yes, Florida made the list. 

>> Read more trending news

The most common left-behind objects are phones, glasses, wallets and sunglasses, but there were also some bizarre items left behind.

>> Man sues Uber for $45M after app's glitch leads to divorce

Uber said people forgot a lobster, a smoke machine, a bulletproof vest, an elf cut-out, a Taser, a vacuum, a grill set and 42 other bizarre objects. 

The company also ranked the most forgetful cities in North America. At the top of the list is Los Angeles, followed by New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Toronto and, rounding out the top 10, Dallas.

For reference, it created a video to give users a how-to guide to retrieve items lost in an Uber:

TSA screener fired after woman gets loaded gun through airport security

WSB-TV has confirmed that the Transportation Security Administration fired a screener who missed a loaded handgun in a passenger’s carry-on bag Sunday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

According to an Atlanta police incident report, Katrina Jackson, of Hoover, Alabama, discovered the handgun as she checked her purse for her passport at the gate.

“There’s one thing if you’re missing something suspicious. This was a handgun, so this is a big deal that this got through the TSA screening process,” security expert Brent Brown said.

>> Watch the news report here

Jackson told police about the gun, and officers showed up at the gate to confiscate her gun and her bag.

Jackson told them that she had a permit to carry from Alabama but did not have it with her.

Police arrested her. She is charged with unlawful possession of a handgun.

“I mean, she violated the law, so we have consequences,” passenger Melissa Monroe said.

A TSA spokesperson sent the following statement: “This egregious mistake was unacceptable and the officer, who was still a probationary employee, was immediately and permanently separated from federal service.”

>> Read more trending news

According to TSA, a screener’s probationary period lasts two years.

“We don’t know who else might have gotten through. This one person fortunately turned around and reported herself, but how many of these types of things get through all the time?” Brown said.

WSB-TV’s Aaron Diamant learned that TSA screeners detected 198 guns at Atlanta’s airport in 2016, more than any other U.S. airport.

Screeners have found 48 guns so far this year, including seven during the same week that the screener missed Jackson’s gun.

“This is a crazy world we live in, so, you know, things happen, and if it’s our time, it’s our time. But they’re doing a good job. I think they’re doing a good job,” passenger Tiffany Clinton said.

WSB-TV was unable to contact Jackson. The Clayton County solicitor general is handling her case.

U.S. temporarily bans larger electronics from cabins of certain flights

A temporary ban on carry-on electronics is set to take effect Tuesday on certain flights into the U.S., according to reporting from The Hill and supported by tweets posted by Royal Jordanian Airlines.

Those tweets have since been deleted but read, “Following instructions from the concerned U.S. departments, we kindly inform our dearest passengers departing to and arriving from the United States that carrying any electronic or electrical device on board the flight cabins is strictly prohibited,” according to The Hill.

>> Read more trending news 

The ban will be formally announced Tuesday but is said to affect 13 countries for the next 96 hours and is a response to a specific intelligence threat, The Hill reported, citing Fox News. The ban reportedly has nothing to do with President Donald Trump’s travel ban, two versions of which have now been struck down by courts across the country.

Affected countries, airlines and flights are in the process of being informed, CNN reported. The ban reportedly applies to all electronics except mobile phones and medical devices; items such as laptops, tablets and cameras may not be brought into the cabin but can fly in checked luggage.

Congressmen livestream 'bipartisan road trip' to D.C. amid snow, flight cancellations

Unable to get a flight back to snowed-in Washington, D.C., Texas Congressmen Will Hurd, a Republican from Helotes, and Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso Democrat, who did a veterans’ event together in San Antonio on Monday, decided to drive together to D.C. – a trip about 1,500 miles and 24 hours long.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>BIPARTISAN ROAD TRIP: Because of the winter storm U.S. Representative Will Hurd and I are renting a car this morning and...Posted by Congressman Beto O'Rourke on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hurd said it was O’Rourke’s idea.

They picked up a Dollar rental Chevy Impala in San Antonio predawn Tuesday.

They went for taquitos at Mi Tierra, where they also bought a piñata mascot — which they have named WillieBeto — to place on the dashboard, though it slipped off.

Starting the day off right at Mi Tierra Cafe before hitting the road for work. 24 hrs to DC. Co-pilot @HurdOnTheHill pic.twitter.com/wZHHF2KQXC— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) March 14, 2017

They then stopped at Tantra Coffeehouse in San Marcos, and then headed for Austin, where they pulled over by the University of Texas to do a live spot on MSNBC, where they were asked what would be the ideal pairing for a Texas-to-D.C. road trip like the one they were on.

They passed on the suggestion that came through on O’Rourke’s Facebook livestream — Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, and Shelia Jackson Lee, D-Houston.

>> Read more trending news

From there, they busted in on Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd just ahead of Smith’s interview of Todd for his KLRU show, "Overheard." 

Hurd was asked to offer an example of an issue on which he and O’Rourke agree.

“We both agree a border wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd said.

Cross country town hallPosted by Congressman Beto O'Rourke on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

From Austin, the road trip headed toward Waco on the way to Texarkana and the Arkansas line.

They said they would be guided by "the people" in their choice of route, but O’Rourke said he’d like to go through Memphis – which they eventually did. 

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, old enough to be their father, phoned in to make sure there was no distracted driving going on.

Hurd assured him O’Rourke had a firm hand on the wheel.

>> 5 hacks to keep your smartphone charged during a power outage

But Cornyn’s connection wasn’t so good.

O’Rourke: “We lost Sen. Cornyn.”

They briefly stopped talking policy to listen to a little music.

First, Khalid from El Paso, and then, of course, Willie Nelson, "On the Road Again."

And then, off with the music for a phone interview with Bill Lambrecht of the San Antonio Express-News.

Lambrecht: “So whose wacky idea was this?”

And, “If you go to Memphis you might want to think about stopping by Graceland.” (They did, but it was closed.)

O’Rourke said that for both of them, “our party leadership is probably not really excited about us doing this” because they would each be seen as helping a member of the opposite party.

>> 7 tips to keep your pets safe during winter weather

“Screw that line of thinking,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke preferred to drive straight through to their destination. Hurd preferred to “stop and smell the roses.”

And use the facilities.

“Will has a small bladder,” O’Rourke said. “And we’ve been drinking a ton of coffee.”

At Hurd’s pace, O’Rourke said, “We’ll get to Washington by mid-summer.”

According to The Associated Press, they arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday "with minutes to spare before a 6:30 p.m. House vote."

Posted by U.S. Representative Will Hurd on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blind woman says she and service dog were booted from American Airlines flight

A blind woman claims she and her guide dog were asked to leave an American Airlines plane after an employee called her "a danger to the flight."

According to the Portland Press-Herald and WLBZ, Sue Martin, 61, of Franklin, Maine, was traveling to San Diego earlier this month when she tried to take a connecting flight with her husband and service dog from Washington, D.C., to Dallas.

After requesting a different seat, Sue Martin, who is blind, and her service dog were kicked off of an American https://t.co/ppgrmOzstc pic.twitter.com/kPJLvJra26— 9NEWS Denver (@9NEWS) March 15, 2017

Martin told the Press-Herald that the trouble began when she realized there was no room for her dog, a German shepherd named Quan, near her seat. She then asked a flight attendant and ticketing agent about switching seats or upgrading to first-class but was denied, the Press-Herald reported

>> Read more trending news

Martin thought the problem had been solved when a first-class passenger gave her his seat, but then an employee asked her to leave, she said.

"The man said, 'You have to leave the plane,'" Martin told WLBZ. "I asked him why and he said the crew had decided I was a danger to the flight. I've never had anything  happen like this before."

American Airlines said it is "thoroughly investigating these allegations" and takes "all disability complaints very seriously," WLBZ reported.

Read more here or here.

Video shows moment Harrison Ford flew over plane before landing on taxiway

New video released by a Southern California airport shows the moment that actor Harrison Ford flew his private plane over a jetliner and mistakenly landed on a taxiway.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Harrison Ford is under investigation after being involved in a passenger plane incident

The incident occurred about noon Feb. 13 at John Wayne Airport near Orange County.

>> Watch the video here

New footage shows Harrison Ford's recent near miss, flying over an airliner to land on a taxiway instead of a runway https://t.co/2CUiJLbMMs— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 22, 2017

Ford, 74, was supposed to land his Aviat Husky on the runway, but landed on the taxiway instead, E! News reported. He flew over an American Airlines Boeing 737 with 110 passengers and a six-person crew on board. The Dallas-bound aircraft was still able to take off minutes after the incident.

According to People, Ford asked air-traffic control, "Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?"

>> Read more trending news

Ford was not injured.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. If Ford is found at fault, he could lose his pilot's license.

Safety issues keep Royal Caribbean cruise ship, thousands of passengers at port overnight

Almost 3,000 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas will wake up Monday morning in the port from which they never disembarked.

Safety issues over life vests held the ship at Florida's Port Canaveral overnight, and passengers had to remain aboard because U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had gone home for the evening.

The ship was originally scheduled to set sail at 5 p.m. Monday.

An announcement could be heard in cellphone footage shot by a passenger.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we do apologize for the inconvenience in our delayed sailing,” an employee said.

>> Read more trending news

Royal Caribbean hasn’t responded to WFTV.com’s request for comment.

“We passed our previous inspection, but the U.S. Coast Guard would like for us to change the jackets immediately,” the company said on Twitter.

The ship is expected to depart the port Tuesday afternoon.

Passengers were making irate posts on social media Monday night.

“Instead of a Caribbean vacation, I get to spend the night in an industrial shipyard,” passenger John Shingara said. “Thanks, no thanks.”

@Royalcaribbean instead of a Caribbean vacation I get to spend the night in an industrial shipyard. Thanks no ... https://t.co/rwNJnH05fo— John Shingara (@BearsFanLurch) February 14, 2017

Royal Caribbean wrote back to Shingara, apologizing for the situation.

“We’re sorry about the delay, John,” the company posted on Twitter. “We’re working to get going ASAP, and appreciate your patience.”

@Royalcaribbean instead of a Caribbean vacation I get to spend the night in an industrial shipyard. Thanks no ... https://t.co/rwNJnH05fo— John Shingara (@BearsFanLurch) February 14, 2017

Twitter user Jeremy Taylor also posted about the delay on departing from port.

“Come on, man,” he wrote. “First the captain makes an announcement we are leaving early morning, now we are delayed until (2 p.m.).”

@RoyalCaribbean come on man. 1st the Captain makes an announcement we are leaving early morning. Now we are delayed until 1400. #Unsatisfied— Jeremy Taylor (@Jktaylor1) February 14, 2017

After Royal Caribbean responded with an apology, Taylor continued to voice his frustration.

@Jktaylor1 We're sorry about the delay, Jeremy. We're working hard to depart as soon as we can, and appreciate your patience.— Royal Caribbean (@RoyalCaribbean) February 14, 2017

“I understand delays for maintenance, but not preventable safety violations,” he wrote.

@RoyalCaribbean I understand delays for maintenance but not preventable safety violations— Jeremy Taylor (@Jktaylor1) February 14, 2017

United Airlines pilot reportedly removed from flight after rant about Trump, Clinton, divorce

A United Airlines pilot was removed from an Austin, Texas, to San Francisco flight Saturday evening, a spokesman for United Airlines confirmed.

United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart confirmed that the pilot was removed from United Airlines Flight 455.

>> Read more trending news

“We hold our employees to the highest standards and we removed that pilot from that flight,” he said. “We brought in a new crew and they operated that flight.”

The pilot boarded the flight dressed in regular clothes, he confirmed.

According to multiple reports on Twitter from passengers, the pilot went on a “rant” about her divorce, President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and also started crying.

Randy Reiss, a passenger on the flight, tweeted about the flight and described the situation as scary. On Twitter, Reiss said the pilot told those on board that she was going through a divorce and began crying during the incident.

So, y'all. I'm shaking right now. I just left my @united flight 455 'cos the captain demonstrated that she was not mentally in a safe space.— Randy Reiss (@undeadsinatra) February 11, 2017

Reiss told the Austin American-Statesman via Twitter that he believed the pilot was not in “the mental space today to take that on.”

A video uploaded to YouTube – then later deleted – appeared to show a portion of what the pilot said to passengers.

In the video, the pilot said: “Don’t worry, I’m going to let my co-pilot fly it (the airplane). He’s a man,” she said.

“If you don’t feel safe, get off the airplane. But otherwise, we can go,” the pilot told passengers over the intercom.

After that comment, a man in the video appeared to get up and request to get off of the airplane.

The pilot then asked passengers if she offended them.

The flight was scheduled to depart Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 5:02 p.m., according to KVUE News.

The flight’s departure was delayed for about two hours due to the incident, Hobart said.

“We removed her from the flight, (and) we’re going to discuss this matter with her,” he said. “We were looking out for our customers to get them to where they needed to be.”

Two all-electric cars fall short on safety, report finds

Two models of all-electric cars are not as safe as they can be, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

>> Read more trending stories  

A report released Wednesday said that the 2017 Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 fall short of "good" ratings, instead receiving "acceptable" ratings for certain crash standards.

The Model S fell short in testing for head restraints and roof strength for the P100D model.

Headlights for the Model S received a poor rating.

During crash testing, the seat belt in the Model S caused the torso of a crash test dummy to move too far forward upon impact, hitting its head against the steering wheel.

"There's no reason the most efficient vehicles can't also be among the safest," said David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer for IIHS. "We hope that Tesla and BMW will continue to refine the designs of their electric models to maximize driver protection." 

Tesla responded. 

"One of the improvements recently introduced in January 2017 specifically addresses the 'acceptable' (or second highest) rating that the Model S achieved in the small overlap frontal crash test, and we expect new tests to yield the highest possible rating ('good' rating) in the crashworthiness category," said Tesla spokeswoman Keely Sulprizio. 

Rollover crash testing of the P100D version of the Model S showed a lack of roof strength. 

While this car has the same roof as other Model S vehicles, the P100D is heavier, IIHS said.  

The BMW i3 missed the mark because of what was found during rear-crash testing for head restraint and seat safety.

The car received an "acceptable" rating in those categories, falling short of a "good" rating. 

"We narrowly missed the IIHS rear impact test rating of 'good,' and therefore, the BMW i3 does not achieve a IIHS Top Safety + rating," said spokeswoman Rebecca Kiehne. "However, the BMW i3 with its carbon-fiber structure is designed to meet and exceed global safety standards."

IIHS has plans to test another electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Bolt, once it becomes readily available to the public. 

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