Survivor Freed from Rubble Nearly 13 Hours after Philadelphia Building Collapse - News - @ JEMS.com


Survivor Freed from Rubble Nearly 13 Hours after Philadelphia Building Collapse

Six people killed, 14 injured when building under demolition collapsed onto store

 

 
 
 

KATHY MATHESON, KEITH COLLINS and MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press | | Thursday, June 6, 2013

GALLERIES

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Philadelphia Building Collapse

As many as eight to 12 people trapped or injured.
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VIDEOS

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Rescues during Philadelphia Building Collapse

Four-story building collapsed on others in Center City.
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People Trapped in Philadelphia Building Collapse

Four-story building collapsed on others in Center City.
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Rescue workers were digging through rubble Thursday for any additional victims who may have been trapped when a building under demolition collapsed onto a neighboring thrift store, killing six people and injuring 14, including one who was pulled from the debris nearly 13 hours later.

JEMS Video, Photos: Building Collapse in Philadelphia

Workers were using buckets and their bare hands to move bricks and rubble in a search-and-rescue operation with no end immediately in sight.

"We're going to keep searching until we're absolutely sure no one else is there," battalion fire chief Charles Lupre said shortly before dawn. He said there were no reports of anyone missing, but there was always the chance that someone was inside who wasn't reported missing.

It was unclear what role the demolition work might have played in the collapse, but the accident raised questions about how closely the highly visible spot on Market Street, one of Philadelphia's signature boulevards, was being monitored, particularly amid word of the demolition contractor's many legal and financial troubles. Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration were at the scene.

For weeks, people working nearby had watched with growing concern as a crew took down the vacant four-story building next to a Salvation Army thrift store at the edge of downtown.

A roofer atop another building didn't think the operation looked safe. A pair of window washers across the street spotted an unbraced, 30-foot section of wall and predicted among themselves the whole building would simply fall down.

On Wednesday, that's what happened. The unstable shell of a building collapsed into a massive heap of bricks and splintered wood, taking part of the thrift store with it.

"Our thoughts and our prayers go out to those who lost their lives, and their families," Mayor Michael Nutter said at a late-night news conference at which he announced the death toll. "At the same time, we pray that those who survive will recover not only physically, but certainly mentally from the trauma of being in a building and it suddenly collapses."

Witnesses said they heard a loud rumbling sound immediately before the collapse.

"I was standing there looking out my window, watching the men at work on the building, and the next thing I know I heard something go kaboom," said Veronica Haynes, who was on the fifth floor of an apartment building across the street. "Then you saw the whole side of the wall fall down ... onto the other building."

Several other witnesses said they had questioned how the demolition workers were tackling the job.

Roofer Patrick Glynn said he had been watching workers take down the building over the past few weeks, and he said he suspected a collapse was inevitable because of the way they were going about it.

"For weeks they've been standing on the edge, knocking bricks off," he said. "You could just see it was ready to go at any time. I knew it was going to happen."

Steve Cramer, who has been working as a window washer across the street, said the demolition crew left 30 feet of a dividing wall up with no braces and it compromised the integrity of the building

"We've been calling it for the past week — it's going to fall, it's going to fall," his co-worker Dan Gillis said.

Officials said the demolition contractor was Griffin Campbell Construction in Philadelphia. Messages left for Campbell were not returned.

Records show that Campbell was charged in 2005 with dealing crack cocaine near a playground. The charges were dismissed after prosecutors misplaced evidence.

He pleaded guilty in an insurance fraud case in 2009, and was acquitted of aggravated assault and related offenses in 2007.

Campbell has also filed for bankruptcy protection twice since 2010. The first bankruptcy was dismissed because he didn't follow through on a repayment plan approved by the court. A second bankruptcy petition was filed in March.

There were no existing violations on the collapsed building, and Campbell had proper permits for the work being done, according to Carlton Williams, of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections.

The city issued a demolition permit for the four-story structure on Feb. 1. Records show the property owner as STB Investments Corp., a company linked to prominent businessman and developer Richard Basciano, who has been best known as the owner of porn theaters in New York City and Philadelphia.

Messages left at the company's New York offices were not immediately returned.

The accident happened on the western edge of downtown, between the city's business district and its main train terminal, 30th Street Station. The block had long been a seedy link between gleaming skyscrapers and the busy area around the station.

The collapse involved an empty building that once housed a first-floor sandwich shop and apartments above. The thrift shop was on one side. The other side was an adult bookstore and theater that had been taken down within the last few months.

A demolition expert wondered what precautions were taken to protect the Salvation Army store, especially since it remained open. Stephen Estrin, a Florida contractor who has testified as an expert at several trials involving building collapses, also questioned whether the demolition was being done by hand or with machinery. A piece of equipment with a claw device was seen amid the debris Wednesday.

"This is an inner-city demolition of a masonry building, which would normally be done manually because of the inherent risk — predictable if certain things are not done very slowly and very carefully — of a collapse," Estrin said. "One of the problems with claw work is it sets up a vibration in the walls."

Records show the collapsed building was sold to STB in 1994 for $385,894. Plans tentatively called for the block to be redeveloped into retail stores and apartments.

___

Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. Associated Press writers Ron Todt and Maryclaire Dale also contributed to this story.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Rescues during Philadelphia Building Collapse



People Trapped in Philadelphia Building Collapse

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Rescue personnel work the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. Rescue crews were trying to extricate the two people who were trapped, and the dozen people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, according to city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Rescue personnel evacuate an injured person from the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. Rescue crews were trying to extricate the two people who were trapped, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. The dozen people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, according to Ayers. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Rescue personnel evacuate an injured person from the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Emergency personnel respond to a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia, where the city fire commissioner says as many as eight to 10 people are believed trapped in the rubble, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Dino Hazell)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

In this photo provided by Jonathan Hudson, police keep onlookers behind yellow tape near a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. The city fire commissioner says as many as eight to 10 people are believed trapped in the rubble. (AP Photo/Jonathan Hudson)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Emergency personnel respond to a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia, where the city fire commissioner says as many as eight to 10 people are believed trapped in the rubble, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Philadelphia Firefighters carry a survivor from the rubble of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. Rescue crews were trying to extricate the two people who were trapped, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. The dozen people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, he said. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael Bryant)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Rescue personnel search the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. Rescue crews were trying to extricate the two people who were trapped, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. The dozen people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, he said. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael Bryant)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Rescue personnel search the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. Rescue crews were trying to extricate the two people who were trapped, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. The dozen people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, he said. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Rescue personnel search the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)


Gallery 1

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Rescue personnel search the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday June 5, 2013. A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said. Rescue crews were trying to extricate the two people who were trapped, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. The dozen people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, he said. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)



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