A former Salvation Army employee who sat in staff meetings leading up to the 2013 Market Street collapse that killed seven people testified Tuesday that a high-ranking official with the nonprofit “was concerned with the damage to the roof, damage to the building, not the people.”
Edward Strudwick, a former dispatch supervisor for the Salvation Army, said he grew concerned after hearing discussions by his superiors during meetings in April and May about the store at 22nd and Market and the demolition going on next door.
But, he said in testimony for the plaintiffs, the top regional official, Major John Cranford, did not seem interested in moving the store operations.
Under cross-examination by a Salvation Army attorney, however, Strudwick admitted he never heard direct discussions about Cranford’s intentions for a potential relocation of store operations while the demolition was underway. He also testified that he never voiced any concerns about what he said he heard at the meetings.
Strudwick is the second Salvation Army employee to testify in what is expected to be a months-long civil trial in the case against six defendants brought by the families of seven people killed and the 12 people injured three years ago.
The six defendants are developer Richard Basciano and his company STB, his project representative Plato Marinakos, demolition contractor Griffin Campbell, Campbell’s excavator operator Sean Benschop, and the Salvation Army, which owned and operated the store that Basciano’s building crushed the morning June 5, 2013 when four stories of concrete, brick and steel fell suddenly.
Campbell and Benschop were the only two people criminally charged and are each serving lengthy prison terms for involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
The trial is in its third week.
Two high-ranking members of the Salvation Army’s “upper command” are scheduled to take the stand starting Tuesday afternoon. Colonel Tim Raines and architect Alistair Fraser will be the next witnesses inside the Philadelphia City Hall courtroom of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.
Strudwick, who left the Salvation Army in 2014, testified he “got the impression” there was some potential danger associated with the demolition of Basciano’s building after attending meetings in April and May of 2013.
But he admitted he did not press any of his superiors, saying “hindsight is 20/20.”
He testified that part of the reason he didn't say anything before the collapse was because “you never said anything back to Major Cranford.”
“That was your first step out the door,” he testified.
That prompted Salvation Army attorney Jack Snyder to ask whether that meant Strudwick valued his job over his concerns.
“No,” Strudwick said.