Morning Headlines: Group Advocating Building Collapse Memorial Pushes Forward

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Last summer’s building collapse at 22nd and Market killed six people.

Less than five months from now will mark the one-year anniversary of the 22nd and Market streets building collapse, and one group has not forgotten. Their idea for an on-site memorial park may take some time to materialize, but for now they’re pushing for an interim memorial prior to the anniversary of the June 5th disaster.

An online petition for a memorial park has garnered 6,000 signatures since September. The petition’s creator, city treasurer Nancy Winkler, is one among a 15-member panel pressing for the memorial. The group consists of family members of the victims, as well as local leaders. Winkler is the mother of Anne Bryan, one of the six victims who perished in the disaster. Mayor Nutter has voiced his support and provided a liaison for the group.
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Morning Headlines: Looking Even Worse for the Salvation Army

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The Inquirer has an examination of what people knew and when they knew it before the Hoagie City building collapsed onto the Salvation Army thrift store. This goes to the heart of the matter in terms of culpability, both criminal (civil lawsuits) and moral. It also reemphasizes what we already knew and which Victor Fiorillo wrote about in September: The Salvation Army is not looking good in this whole thing. Some fundamental questions:

– Did the store manager at the Salvation Army know the employees were at risk?
– Did the Salvation Army supervisor of nine stores know the employees were at risk?
– Did the Salvation Army organization know that the demolition was risky enough to merit closing the location while the work continued?

The Salvation Army’s lawyer, Eric A. Weiss, told the Inquirer that the organization had no idea what stage the demo had reached.

At decision-making levels, Weiss said, the charity thought it was still negotiating with its Market Street neighbor over what steps would be taken to shield the shop during demolition when the collapse occurred.

He said the Salvation Army had designated a Harrisburg lawyer to negotiate with the owner of the building being torn down, STB Investments Corp., a company controlled by real estate investor Richard Basciano.

But the Inquirer reported previously that STB warned the organization of the hazards in a series of emails. As it stands now, aside from the criminal charges filed against the demolition contractor and the excavator operator, it seems as though the Salvation Army will bear the brunt of the blame for the loss of life and the injuries suffered. Good thing they’ve got deep pockets.

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Photos: This South Philly House Looks Like It’s About To Collapse



While driving through South Philadelphia on Monday — the same day that contractor Griffin Campbell was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the tragic 22nd and Market building collapse — I passed this house at 1402 Ellsworth Street. About 15 minutes later, I turned around and drove back to take these photos, because this seems downright dangerous. Read more »

Morning Headlines: Woman Who Lost Legs in Building Collapse Recounts Awful Details

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The Daily News reports today on the deposition of Mariya Plekan, the woman who was trapped under the rubble of the Salvation Army thrift store for 13 hours. By the time she was rescued, her injuries were too severe to save her legs, which had to be amputated. The details she gave are haunting and hard to hear:

Plekan, who said she was conscious for the entire ordeal, recounted how she found a small hole through which she could see light and hear parts of the rescue operation above her.

“They started to move things around, then I had a hope, I had a hope that they will save me shortly. But it didn’t happen,” she said. “I was screaming, ‘Help, help.’ But nobody heard me.”

“I was praying, praying, ‘God, help me,’ so I could be found,” she said.

A search dog tracked her down.

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Grand Jury Charges Building Collapse Contractor with Murder

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Following an investigation, a grand jury is charging Griffin Campbell, the contractor in charge of the fatal June 5th demolition project on 22nd and Market, with six counts of third-degree murder, six-counts of involuntarily manslaughter, and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person. Campbell, District Attorney Seth Williams said today, ignored proper demolition standards out of “greed,” in order to rake in higher profits.

This is the second indictment named in the case since June. The D.A.’s office already charged demolition subcontractor Sean Benschop with six counts of involuntary manslaughter last summer.

 

 

Sympathy for L&I

Philadelphia Building Collapse

On October 30th, Mayor Nutter announced the creation of a blue-ribbon commission to examine the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) in a never-ending reaction to the June 5th building collapse at 22nd and Market Streets.

The panel is the latest in a sequence of investigation and rage after the disaster, which includes voluminous op-eds in the dailies and a formal investigation by the City Controller’s office. This chorus can lead one to believe the catastrophe was singular. In scope, it was; the collapse killed six people and was one of the largest structural disasters in recent municipal memory.

But Market Street was the Sandy Hook of building collapses. Buildings were falling before, and they have they fallen since.

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Feds Issue Big Penalty for Building Collapse Demolition Firm

Small comfort though it may be for the families affected by the June building collapse on Market Street, but OSHA–the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration–has dinged two of the big players with nearly $400,000 dollars in fines: $383,000 for Campbell Construction, which led the demolition, and $84,000 for the contractor they hired. “This tragic incident could and should have been prevented,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, in a press release.

Here’s what OSHA said Campbell Construction did wrong, according to the release.

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Lawyer for Ousted Penn State Prez Graham Spanier Will Lead Investigation Into L&I

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Well, this is odd. Yesterday Mayor Nutter finally announced the creation of a 16-member panel that will evaluate the Department of Licenses and Inspections, and the panel’s executive director will be former U.S. attorney Peter F. Vaira, an expert in organized crime and defense attorney for ousted Penn State president Graham Spanier.

Spanier, you might remember, was accused in the Freeh report of covering up allegations against Jerry Sandusky for more than a decade so that the school’s reputation and football program would not suffer. He was later charged with perjury, endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and failure to report suspected child abuse.

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Mayor Nutter on Building Collapse: Oh, All Right, I’ll Appoint a Commission Already

The mayor finally got the message: The citizens of Philadelphia — and a member of his own administration who lost his daughter in the Salvation Army building collapse — were tired of waiting for a promised-but-not-yet-delivered creation of an independent review commission to investigate the incident.

Last week the Daily News’ Ronnie Polaneczky wrote a column in which she noted that the day after the tragedy, he said he’d convene the commission, yet he still hadn’t as of her writing. It was appalling. We said, “Take some time out from your schedule…and GET IT DONE.” Today at 3 p.m. Nutter will officially announce the creation of an independent advisory commission not just to review the accident, but to evaluate the Department of Licenses & Inspections overall. Now that’s getting it done.

Morning Opinion: Nutter Is Dragging His Feet on the Building Collapse

Philadelphia Building Collapse

We’re calling it opinion, but perhaps it’s more like fact. As Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky points out today, after the building collapse at 2140 Market Street, Mayor Nutter promised to convene an independent, blue-ribbon commission to assess the accident. He has not done so. On Monday, Nutter’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, told Polaneczky it would happen “very soon.”

“He said the same thing 37 days ago,” she writes.

Though Polaneczky keeps an even tone, bringing in Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan, whose 24-year-old daughter Anne was killed in the collapse, to make the point, it’s actually something of an outrage that Nutter is putting this off. Winkler tells Polaneczky:

“[This] was a horrific, avoidable crime that was the result of a widespread, systemic failure to put public safety first.”

Now, Winkler and Ryan “want the city to use this moment to undergo an honest examination of the systems, people and processes that affect building, demo and development in Philly.”

Winkler, who is city treasurer, sure is optimistic for an insider.

Mayor Nutter, what are you afraid of? Or, to put it more generously, take some time out from your schedule — which today includes officiating at a first-grade safety officer’s swearing-in ceremony — and GET IT DONE.

Seeing the big picture of the Market Street collapse

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