One year later: A look back at the Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse
The Victims | Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse
Philly.com highlighted one of the tragic stories of the Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse survivors, Mariya Plekan. She heroically survived under buried rubble for 13 hours, after the Salvation Army Store collapsed on her. She lost both of her legs in the ordeal. Mariya Plekan talked publicly for the first time since the disaster at St. Ignatius Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in West Philadelphia.
“I thought I was dying. I never felt so scared. There were heavy bricks on me. I couldn’t move. I heard my phone but could not reach it,” she said. “I was praying, always praying.”
Plekan and her family have experienced countless hurdles since the Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse. Natalia, her 25-year-old daughter, traveled from Ukraine to take care of her mother. After six months Natalia’s Visa expired, and she was required to go back to the Ukraine. Her son is now living in Philadelphia until his Visa expires. Understandably, Plekan would like both of her children to live with her in Philadelphia.
“All of us would say, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” manager Margarita Agosto said. ” ‘Imagine if this falls on us.’ “
Agosto was interviewed last summer by federal safety Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators. Their sworn depositions, obtained by The Inquirer, offer a painful account of what was happening inside the shop.
“I believed that he had our safety in his best interest. . . He was my boss,” she testified. “I figured that, you know, our employer, Salvation Army, would have our best interest for us and the customers and let us know, ‘Listen, they doing demolition. It’s severe. We are going to close the store down and send you to other stores until the demolition is done.’ That wasn’t the case.’ “
Nadine White was the first to file a lawsuit after the Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse. The negligence lawsuit names the owner of the 2136 Market Street building that collapsed on top of the thrift shop; Basciano’s company, STB Investments Corp.; Griffin T. Campbell, the demolition contractor who had been hired to tear down the vacant structure; and Campbell’s firm, Griffin Campbell Construction.
The Accussed | Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse
The trial for demolition contractor Griffin Campbell and excavator operator Sean Benschop is becoming increasingly complicated. Benschop, 43, and Campbell, 50, are charged with third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and related offenses. Plato Marinakos, the architect who got the demolition permit, has been granted immunity. No one else has been charged, which leaves many very angry. Several people feel that Benschop and Campbell are being used as scapegoats. Contractor Griffin Campbell and heavy equipment operator Sean Benschop could be set free to await trial. Their attorneys, the day before the first anniversary of the deadly collapse, revealed that they plan to ask a judge to set bail.
“Why are those at the lowest level being implicated for decisions that could have been made by those in charge?,” demanded attorney Grey.
Prosecutors say Benschop, allegedly impaired by marijuana, used an excavator, swinging a heavysteel beam, leading to the construction accident and the collapse of the Salvation Army store. Campbell, who employed Benschop, is accused of ignoring warnings about the hazardous conditions.
Those that were left behind | Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse
Nancy Winkler, the city treasurer, and her huband, structural engineer Jay Bryan, were the parents of one of the victims of the Market Street building collapse. They both testified about the need for improvements at the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). Their daughter Anne and five others died in the Salvation Army Thrift Shop building collapse. Winkler and Bryan made clear that they view the failings of L&I to stop the demolition as part of the tragedy.
“Who could ever have expected their 24-year-old child to leave the house one bright, sunny, June morning and then be killed under the rubble of a collapsed store? This was not a freak accident,” Winkler said. “It was strictly a case of when that wall was going to come crashing down. Not if. It was a case of who would be killed, not if anyone would be killed.”
Bryan said that standards should be imposed on the position of L&I commissioner:
“Just as the police commissioner is a law enforcement professional and the fire commissioner a firefighting professional, the L&I commissioner should be a construction professional in order to insure an intimate knowledge of the industry he is responsible for policing.”
Remembering the Victims | Center City Philadelphia Building Collapse
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the Salvation Army had donated the land to the city tax free with the intention of building a park for the victims. Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke said he expects council to quickly pass legislation accepting the gift of the land. Some proposed plans included building a memorial to the victims. More than 6,200 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for a park at the site.