Collapse on June 5, 2013 in Center City Philadelphia killed 6 and injured 13 people

Building Collapse Victim's Parents Want Blue-Ribbon Inquiry

Anne Bryan, 24, was one of six people killed in the June 5 collapse at 22nd and Market Streets

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Tuesday, Sep 17, 2013  |  Updated 9:10 PM EDT
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Nancy Winkler, the mother of Anne Bryan, remembers the last time she saw her daughter, the same day she was killed in the collapse of a Center City building on June 5.

NBC10.com

Nancy Winkler, the mother of Anne Bryan, remembers the last time she saw her daughter, the same day she was killed in the collapse of a Center City building on June 5.

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The parents of a young woman killed in the Center City building collapse are seeking the creation of an independent blue-ribbon commission to investigate the failures that led to the deadly event and change procedures for the future.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Jay Bryan and Philadelphia City Treasurer Nancy Winkler, parents of 24-year-old Anne Bryan, said Tuesday they'd like to see demolition and engineer experts take part in the inquiry.

"We just believe that this should have never had happened," her mother said. "Our main objective is to ensure that no other parents have to go through what we're going through."

Winkler said they most likely will have to work with the city to carry out and fund the commission.

Bryan and Winkler also filed a wrongful death suit against The Salvation Army, developers STB Investments and Richard Basciano and others on behalf of their daughter on Tuesday.

Anne Bryan was shopping, along with her friend Mary Lea Simpson, in The Salvation Army Thrift Shop at 22nd and Market Streets on June 5 when a four-story wall from the building under demolition next door crashed down on top of them. Both were killed along with four others. Another 13 people were hurt, but were able to be rescued from the rubble.

Fighting back tears, Winkler remembered her daughter as a huge Phillies fan who was fascinating and exciting.

"As an adult she had just grown into such an incredible, fascinating, fun, ambitious and exciting person to be around," she said.

She also recounted the last time she saw her daughter on the morning of the collapse.

The two went on a bike ride and ate birthday cake before parting ways -- Winkler heading to work and Anne excited to donate clothes to the Salvation Army.

"You think you're going to see the person at dinner," she said. "When I head the building collapsed, I knew she was probably there. That's my last memory of Anne. Looking beautiful and happy."

Photos and Videos

Building Collapse Victim's Parents

Anne Bryan was one of the six people who died inside the Salvation Army Thrift Store on June 5, 2013 when a four-story wall next door came crumbling down on top of the Philadelphia store.

Building Collapse Victim's Father: The Salvation Army Should Never Have Been Open That Day

The father of one of the six people who died in this summer's fatal building collapse in Center City, Philadelphia reveals why he believes his daughter's death was preventable.
More Photos and Videos

Both Anne's family and attorneys say there is significant evidence that the collapse could have been prevented.

Email exchanges between officials at The Salvation Army and STB Investments highlight concerns that a collapse might occur. Yet, attorneys and the family say, safety measures were not put into place and the shop continued to operate even as workers said they heard bricks falling onto the store's roof.

"We struggled with naming The Salvation Army in our suit, but in the end we felt that they failed in their responsibility to their customers and employees," he said. "The building should have never been open on June 5."

Robert Mongaluzzi, the parent's attorney, says The Salvation Army and STB took part in a "game of chicken" and were "just waiting to see who would blink first."

"This case is unique...because there's a devastating electronic trail between STB and The Salvation Army in the weeks and months leading up to the collapse," he said.

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Not named in the lawsuit is the City of Philadelphia or city employees. Mongaluzzi says "sovereign immunity" precludes them from being named based on the case's current evidence.

Winkler and Bryan are seeking to have the collapse site turned into a park and memorial for the victims.

An online petition started by Winkler to raise support for the memorial and park has more than 5,300 signatures.

The parent's announcement and lawsuit filing came on the same day Sean Benschop, the operator of the backhoe used during the demolition, was in court for a preliminary hearing.

Investigators say Benschop was high on marijuana and pain killers when he was operating the heavy machinery that morning. He remains in jail on $1.6 million bail and is charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment.

To date, Benschop, a.k.a. Kary Roberts, is the only person charged in the case. A petition to reduce his bail was denied by a judge Tuesday.

Benschop's attorney told NBC10 he expects his client to be "vindicated sometime in the near future."

There are several other proceedings underway in the case including a grand jury investigation and three civil lawsuits.


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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