2013 Philadelphia building collapse

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Philadelphia Salvation Army Building Collapse
DateJune 5, 2013
Time10:43 am EST
Location2140 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
CoordinatesN 39.953863 - W 75.17657
Causeunknown
Deaths6
Injuries14
AccusedSean Benschop
 
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Philadelphia Salvation Army Building Collapse
DateJune 5, 2013
Time10:43 am EST
Location2140 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
CoordinatesN 39.953863 - W 75.17657
Causeunknown
Deaths6
Injuries14
AccusedSean Benschop

On June 5, 2013, a building collapsed at the southeast corner of 22nd and Market Streets in Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, trapping a number of people under the rubble. Six people died and fourteen others were injured.

Background[edit]

2138 Market Street, an unoccupied four-story building, was under demolition by Griffin Campbell Construction for several weeks prior to the accident. This property is owned by Richard Basciano through his development corporation, STB Investments. 2138 Market was adjacent to a one-story building (2140 Market Street) with a Salvation Army thrift store operating on the ground and basement levels. The store was open and full of shoppers and staff.[1][2][3][4]

On July 14, 2013, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a series of emails detailing a dispute between the Salvation Army and STB.[5] Most of the emails also were copied to City Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger and his top development aide, John Mondlak. STB sought access to the Salvation Army property in order to conduct demolition operations safely. The two parties could not reach an agreement; however, STB initiated demolition nonetheless. On May 22, Thomas Simmonds of STB emailed Deputy Mayor Greenberger saying that 2138 Market was in a state of partial demolition that created "a situation that poses a threat to life and limb", but the city took no action and STB proceeded with the demolition. Shortly after these emails were published in the Inquirer, the City of Philadelphia released numerous documents relating to the collapse.[6]

Collapse[edit]

Rescue operations on the afternoon of the collapse

At 10:43 am, the four-story building under demolition collapsed onto the one-story building next door. The buildings crashed down with crumbling brick and wood snapping. Six people died and fourteen people were injured. A 61-year-old woman was trapped for 13 hours and then hospitalized at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in critical condition.[7] The thirteen other injuries were minor.[8][9][10][11]

After the collapse, an 18-year-old high school student who had been walking by the building when it collapsed rushed to the scene and spent fifteen minutes trying to free people from the rubble before emergency crews arrived.[11] During a search-and-rescue operation, rescuers used buckets and their bare hands to move through bricks and rubble until the following morning.[3]

It was soon discovered that surveillance video from the front of a SEPTA bus operating eastbound on Market Street between 23rd and 22nd Streets had captured the scene at the moment of collapse. Up to a minute of this footage was released by SEPTA to news media outlets in July.[12]

Victims[edit]

The six people killed by the collapse were:[13]

Suicide of building inspector[edit]

On June 12, Ronald Wagenhoffer, 52, the City Department of Licenses and Inspections inspector responsible for inspecting the demolition site, was found dead in his truck with a gunshot to the chest. His death was ruled a suicide.[14]

Immediate City response[edit]

News reports on June 7 following the collapse indicated that despite multiple complaints, the shoddy demolition work at 22nd and Market Street went uninspected for more than three weeks before the deadly collapse.[15] Subsequent reports indicated that Richard Wagenhoffer had reported he visited the site on May 14 and found no violations.[14] At the time, the city did not require demolition contractors to establish their qualifications.[15] On June 7, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter held a press conference and issued two press statements in which he apologized to the dead and their families as well as the injured survivors and their families. Nutter also announced new demolition rules and standards designed to prevent similar tragedies.[16][17] He announced new demolition rules and standards designed to prevent similar tragedies. The new rules will require the same level of city monitoring and contractor expertise at private demolition sites that have been required during demolition at public sites. The new rules will prohibit contractors from using heavy machinery to demolish buildings adjacent to occupied structures, which was done at the 22nd and Market demolition. City inspectors were sent to over 300 demolition sites to check for safety violations.[16]

Mayor Nutter said City Inspector General Amy Kurlan will begin an investigation of the collapse and government failings that contributed to it.[16] Other investigations are underway by the Office of the City Controller, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Licenses and Inspections, and the Philadelphia Police Department [18]

Criminal investigation[edit]

On June 8, Sean Benschop, the crane operator working on the demolition job at the time, was charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one count of risking a catastrophe.[19] A blood test performed after the collapse revealed marijuana in his system.[20] Benschop turned himself in to police later that day.[21]

On June 10, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams convened a grand jury to investigate the circumstances that led to the collapse, a step that may result in criminal charges against responsible individuals.[22] On Sunday, June 16, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial calling for the investigations of the Market Street collapse to look at top officials and property owners. The Inquirer said, "it was disheartening to hear a former mayor, Ed Rendell, defend Richard Basciano, who owns the building that fell through the thrift shop." The Inquirer editorial stated that "responsibility goes much higher than Sean Benschop, the excavator operator who allegedly tested positive for drugs and has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and than the city building inspector who apparently killed himself ...[over having] wished he had done more to prevent it.” [23]

City Council hearings on licensing and inspections[edit]

In response to the collapse, the Philadelphia City Council has held hearings to evaluate the laws that regulate demolition in the city and the changes that Mayor Nutter enacted in response to the tragedy.[24]

Civil cases[edit]

A lawsuit was filed on June 6 for financial damages on behalf of Nadine White, the survivor who was buried under rubble. City officials began inspecting hundreds of demolition sites throughout the city. The demolition contractor violated several federal safety regulations and it was said that the building's owner should have picked a more qualified and competent contractor to do the work.[25]

A wrongful death complaint was filed by George Simpson, brother and administrator for the estate of Mary Lea Simpson. Mary Simpson, age twenty-four, was one of six people killed in the collapse. A set of defendants named in the lawsuit are the Salvation Army in Greater Philadelphia, The Trustees of theSalvation Army in Pennsylvania, The Salvation Army Eastern Territory, and the National Headquarters of the Salvation Army. Also named was Alistair Fraser,the Operations Manager for the Salvation Army Eastern Territory, responsible for architectural and/or engineering issues for the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Defendants Charles Deitrick and John Cranford are respectively the General Secretary and Administrator of the Salvation Army. [26]

Additional defendants are: Richard Basciano, STB Investments Corporation, Thomas Simmonds, Frank Cresci, 2100 West Market Street Corporation, 303 West 42nd Street Corporation, Nicetown House Development Corporation a/k/a Griffin Campbell Construction, Griffin T. Campbell, S&R Contracting, Sean Benschop, Plato Studio Architect, LLC, and Plato Marinakos, Jr.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "13 Victims Treated At 3 Hospitals After Center City Building Collapse". CBS News Philadelphia. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "6 dead, 13 hurt in Philadelphia building collaps". USA Today. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Matheson, Kathy; Collins, Keith; Rubinkam, Michael (June 5, 2013). "Philadelphia Building Collapse: Search And Rescue Teams Pull 14th Survivor From Rubble (VIDEOS)". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Crane operator charged with manslaughter in Philadelphia building collapse". The Morning Call (Allentown, PA). June 8, 2013. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Demolition continued at collapse site despite worries about danger". Philly.com. July 15, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Disclosure Statement". City of Philadelphia. July 17, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  7. ^ Fantz, Ashley; Hoye, Sarah (June 6, 2013). "Philly mayor: Probe of building collapse under way". CNN. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ Boyette, Chris; Lear, Justin (June 5, 2013). "6 dead in Philadelphia building collapse, 13 injured". CNN. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  9. ^ "9 injured, more feared trapped in Center City Philadelphia building collapse". Abclocal.go.com. 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  10. ^ "Buildings collapse in Philadelphia". Philly.com. June 5, 2013. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "Workers Seek Survivors in Philadelphia Collapse". New York Times. June 5, 2013. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  12. ^ Fleming, Omari. "SEPTA Releases New Video Of Deadly Building Collapse". MyFoxPhilly.com. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "Philadelphia building collapse victims: What we know". Philly.com. June 7, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Bob Warner, Ben Finley and Joseph A. Gambardello (14 June 2013). "Inspector in collapsed building case kills himself". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Bob Warner, Paul Nussbaum and Mark Fazlollah (7 June 2013). "Complaints of shoddy work, unsafe conditions before collapse". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c Paul Nussbaum (9 June 2013). "Nutter apologizes for deaths, announces changes". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  17. ^ Thomas Fitzgerald (8 June 2013). "Collapse tragedy appears to strain Nutter". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "Philly building collapse: Contractor has criminal record; owner once dubbed ‘porn king’". Yahoo News. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Sean Benschop Charges: Equipment Operator Was On Drugs During Philadelphia Building Collapse, Officials Say
  20. ^ "Philadelphia Building Collapse: Crane Operator To Be Charged with Manslaughter". ABC News. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Aubrey Whelan and Mike Newall (9 June 2013). "Excavator operator surrenders to police". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  22. ^ "Grand jury, Council committee to investigate building collapse". Philly.com. June 10, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  23. ^ Editorial (16 June 2013). "Aim high with building probes". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  24. ^ "Phila. Council opens hearings on building collapse". Philly.com. June 10, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Fallout Mounts in Fatal Philadelphia Building Collapse". USA Today. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  26. ^ "Philadelphia Building Collapse Wrongful Death Complaint". 
  27. ^ "Philadelphia Building Collapse Wrongful Death Complaint". 

Coordinates: 39°57′14″N 75°10′35″W / 39.953851°N 75.176464°W / 39.953851; -75.176464