Lawsuit Blames 7th Death on Market Street Building Collapse

More than a year after the fatal Market Street building collapse in Philadelphia, widow Bonnie Johnson is publicly blaming her husband's death on the accident. Danny C. Johnson would be the 7th fatality.

Johnson's family filed a wrongful death suit against 18 defendants -- businesses and people -- including the Salvation Army, developer Richard Basciano, his firm STB Investments and employees with both companies who engaged in email conversations about dire safety concerns before Basciano's building collapsed on top of the Salvation Army thrift store on June 5, 2013.

The lawsuit tells a story pitting the New York developer against the Salvation Army, contending the thrift store stood in the way, literally, of Basciano's grand plans for developing his properties along Market Street. During the demolition process, the two teams engaged in an email battle over procedures and safety concerns. The suit claims both parties were aware of a potential collapse, but greed and self-interests kept them from acting on behalf of workers and thrift store customers.

Johnson, 59, was one of the 19 shoppers inside the Salvation Army Thrift store that Wednesday morning. It was a discount day, which traditionally drew more customers. When the Basciano property at 22nd and Market collapsed on top of the store,Johnson was trapped; buried in debris for about an hour.

Johnson suffered from traumatic arm and leg injuries. He also inhaled "excessive dust and debris" which the suit claims exacerbated his pre-existing heart and respiratory issues.

“For more than three weeks after the collapse Mr. Johnson was in and out of the hospital suffering from cardiac complications, pulmonary injuries, and the crushing of his lower body,” according to attorney Jeff Goodman.

Johnson, who was working as a truck driver at the time, died on June 28, 2013.

“Medical records and a forensic pathologist have confirmed his death was caused by those injuries in this preventable tragedy,” Goodman added in a statement.

According to the lawsuit, Basciano bought up a number of properties along Market Street in the 90s. In recent years, Basciano saw an opportunity to redevelop his Market Street properties, according to the suit. The Salvation Army was standing in his way because they refused to sell to him.

The lawsuit says Basciano oversaw demolition and was even there the morning of the collapse.

"Eyewitnesses indicate that Basicano was on site in the moments leading up to the collapse, however, he was remarkably nowhere to be found as soon as the building fell," the lawsuit reads.

The suit was filed by Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, the Philadelphia firm representing the majority of victims.

Johnson left behind a widow and five adult children.

The collapse killed six other people and injured 13.

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