Emergency calls made following the deadly collapse of a Philadelphia building show the panic and chaos felt at the site moments after the four-story building's walls came crashing down onto a thrift shop.
NBC10.com obtained transcripts from 21 calls made to 911 in the seconds and minutes after 2136 Market Street collapsed on the morning of June 5. City officials previously denied NBC10 access to the calls. However, on Tuesday, the city turned over transcripts with redacted personal information following a Freedom of Information filing.
The first call for help came in to dispatchers at 10:41:39 a.m. During the conversation, the caller said the scene reminded them of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“I think this building here that was under demolishing collapsed at 22nd and Market…it’s a tremendous amount of dust and I think you might have to send some…the ambulances over there…it looks like 9/11…unbelievable,” the caller told a Philadelphia Police operator in part.
The caller goes on to describe the sound the building made as it collapsed and the resulting aftermath.
Police 911 Operator: “You said a building collapsed?”
Caller: “Yes, I believe so. There’s a tremendous roaring out. There’s stuff all over the place. I’ll try to check it out now…I live at [redacted]”
Police 911 Operator: “Okay.”
Caller: “It’s horrible.”
Police 911 Operator: “Okay, I’m gonna…”
Caller: “They’ve been…they’ve been…yeah…you better somebody out here. I’m telling you, it looks bad.”
A second call came in at the same time, with the caller first telling a police dispatcher what occurred.
Police 911 Operator: “Did it fall on anyone?”
Caller: “I…yea there are people in the building…yea.”
The call is then transferred to a Philadelphia Fire Department dispatcher.
Fire 911 Operator: “Okay, we got somebody on the way. People are inside?”
Caller: “A lot of people, you got…I mean you gonna need a lot of people.”
In another call placed at 10:41:43 a.m., the distraught caller had trouble explaining what had happened.
“I live at [redacted] and there’s a big old accident at a place where you buy clothes. It has fallen into the building next door and it fell on top. Please hurry,” the woman said.
After a brief exchange with a police 911 dispatcher, the caller is connected to a fire department operator.
“Oh I can’t stand this,” the caller said of the collapse. “Let them be alright. Please. Oh, let them be alright.”
During a fifth call, which came in eight seconds later, a man tells dispatchers how witnesses jumped in to help save those trapped in the rubble.
“I don’t know, people are inside because it crushed the building next to it…so you got the construction workers running all around,” the man said.
Shortly after, the caller witnesses construction workers rescuing people.
“The construction [unreadable] is trying to pull through the rubble,” the man said. “Yes…there’s definitely people in there.”
“Holy s---,” is how a 10th caller describes the scene at 10:42:41 a.m.
Caller: “Yeah, a building just fell over on people.”
Police 911 Operator: “A whole building?"
Caller: “On people. It just fell on people. I’m out here…they’re people out here.”
Six people were killed and 13 others injured when a freestanding four-story outer wall of 2136 Market Street toppled onto the one-story Salvation Army Thrift Shop next door. Customers and employees inside the store were buried and some were sent crashing into the shop’s basement.
Crews from Griffin Campbell Construction had been demolishing the former "Hoagie City Building" when the wall, which was unbraced, crumbled.
Backhoe operator Kary R. Roberts, also known as Sean Benschop, was arrested and charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment for his alleged role in the collapse. A grand jury is investigating whether additional charges should be filed against Roberts and others.
In the wake of the collapse, the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections issued new guidelines for demolitions taking place inside the city.
Several civil lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of the victims against the demolition crew, real estate developer Richard Basciano and the Salvation Army.