With the one year anniversary of the deadly Market Street building collapse approaching, the final survivor to be pulled from the rubble spoke to NBC10 about her continued recovery and painful memories from that fateful day.
Mariya Plekan, who lost both of her legs due to the collapse, first spoke out about her painful experience last November.
Plekan said she had entered the Salvation Army Thrift Store at 22nd and Market Street back on June 5, 2013, and never noticed the demolition work that was being done.
Once she was inside, the roof of the building began to collapse.
“In the first second when I felt so scared I thought, ‘I’m dying and I’m not going to see my kids,’” she told NBC10’s George Spencer through an interpreter on Tuesday.
The building caved in, pinning Plekan’s legs underneath a beam and mounds of debris. She was then trapped underneath the rubble for 13 hours.
“It was a little crack there, a blue little crack, and through that crack the light and the air was coming in,” Plekan said during her videotaped testimony last year. “I had a hope that they would save me shortly. But it didn’t happen. And I was there for a long time. I was screaming, 'Help, help.' But nobody heard me.”
Around midnight, a firefighter pulled Plekan from the wreckage. Plekan described the first responder as “the man with the dog.”
“I felt like somebody standing on top of me,” Plekan said. “Like somebody standing on the top of my head. And I started to push myself to scream, ‘Help! Help!’”
Plekan was one of 13 survivors. The collapse killed six others.
She was later taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she endured numerous surgeries, including the removal of both of her legs.
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After a five month stay and several operations, she was released from Penn and entered a rehab center where she remains.
Plekan credits her two children, Andrew and Natalie, with helping her through her recovery. As for the men accused of causing the collapse, Plekan says she hopes they see the suffering she’s gone through.
“She has incredible challenges,” said Andrew Stern, one of two attorneys representing Plekan in a lawsuit against the Salvation Army and others involved in the collapse. “I can’t even believe where she’s been and how far she’s come.”
Twice widowed, Plekan came to the United States from the Ukraine nearly 12 years ago to care for her husband’s sick aunt. She’s been a resident of the Kensington neighborhood since 2002.
Plekan’s children are both Ukrainian natives who were given alternating six month visas, which means only one of them is allowed in the country at a time to care for her. They’re currently working with an immigration attorney to change that.
Stern also says he’s working on getting Plekan’s multi-million dollar medical expenses covered and ultimately wants to make sure a disaster similar to the one that changed his client’s life forever never happens again.