Did Store Managers Know of Danger Before Building Collapse? - NBC 10 Philadelphia

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

Did Store Managers Know of Danger Before Building Collapse?



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    As residents across the city honor the victims of the Center City building collapse on the eve of the 6-month anniversary, NBC10 uncovered new allegations against the Salvation Army regarding their role in the tragedy.

    On June 5, at 10:41 a.m., the four-story western wall of 2136 Market Street toppled down onto the one-story Salvation Army Thrift Store next door. The shop was filled with workers and patrons, all whom were buried under brick, wood and glass.

    Some victims suffocated to death under the debris and one woman, Mariya Plekan, was trapped for 13 hours. She had to have both legs amputated at the hip. In total, six people were killed and 13 were injured.

    Contractor Griffin Campbell had been demolishing the brick building at 2136 Market and, according to witnesses, images of the site and investigators, the wall was left unbraced and unsupported to sway in the wind.

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    The project's architect, Plato Marinakos, allegedly warned Campbell the wall could fall at any time, a day before the collapse. Campbell promised to take it down by hand, according to investigators. The contractor then allegedly lied to Marinakos saying he had safely demolished wall, only to leave it standing without supports.

    Campbell, 49, was indicted by a grand jury on six counts of third degree murder, six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person.

    Sean Benschop, a.k.a. Kary Roberts, was also charged in the collapse. Benschop was allegedly high on painkillers and marijuana when he was operating a backhoe at the site. He faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment.

    In the wake of the collapse, the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections issued new guidelines for demolitions taking place inside the city.

    A special City Council investigative committee also issued 71 reform recommendations ranging from changes in demolition paperwork to altering the Philadelphia Code to giving the Philadelphia Fire Department more power to stop bad demolitions.

    NBC10 also obtained the depositions taken by OSHA officials as they continue to investigate whether the Salvation Army allowed employees to work in unsafe conditions prior to the collapse.

    OSHA investigators interviewed two Salvation Army employees, their supervisor and an architect who advised the company of the structural integrity of the building.

    According to the depositions, an assistant manager for the Salvation Army store told investigators that a supervisor and store manager “knew that the store wasn’t in good condition.”

    The assistant also claimed that the “paint was peeling off the walls from water damage” that was caused by the rain. Despite this, according to the assistant, nothing was done.

    The assistant claims that when demolition work started, “dust and pieces of the ceiling would be laying on the toilet.”

    Andy Stern, Plekan’s attorney, says there’s no doubt in his mind that the Salvation Army was aware of the dangerous conditions of the building.

    “I don’t think there is any question that the Salvation Army was aware that the building and structure of the building was not sound and it was a recipe for disaster,” Stern said.

    An architect who advised the Salvation Army told OSHA investigators that he sent an email two weeks before the collapse and strongly advised roof protection. However, he says he figured the construction work hadn’t started after he never received a response.

    Stern says his client would still have her legs and six others would still be alive if they had known about how unsafe the conditions truly were.

    “There are employees that have testified they thought the ceiling would fall in,” Stern said. “Had she been told that she would’ve left immediately.”

    *Note* NBC10's Daralene Jones contributed to this report*