The building collapse everyone should have seen coming.

Firefighters holding up a yellow tarp as they prepared to remove another body from the rubble of the collapsed building. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)

AT 10:43 A.M. yesterday, a little bit of Bangladesh came to Philadelphia.

The scale of the carnage at 22nd and Market wasn't nearly the same. But it appears the blatant disregard for safety and the well-being of people inside the Salvation Army thrift shop sounds eerily reminiscent of the Rana Plaza garment factory.

The owner of the Bangladeshi factory attempted to escape the country, only to be arrested and forced to do a perp walk.

Meanwhile here, only time will tell what happens with the callous ineptitude exhibited by Griffin Campbell Construction.

Nothing about the deadly demolition of a blighted four-story building at the edge of downtown looked right. That's what the people who had watched it in the days and weeks before the collapse told me.

In fact, everyone I spoke with said something seemed off - way off.

Everyone, apparently, except the city that issued a demolition permit for a building owned by infamous king of porn and serial slumlord Richard Basciano. The permit was issued to Philadelphia architect Plato Marinakos for Griffin Campbell Construction - led by a demolition boss who in addition to a criminal record, also has a history of violations on other properties he's worked on.

Despite obvious red flags, the city is claiming everything was on the up and up, the demolition company had proper permits, the workers were certified, blah, blah, blah.

But I wonder how workers can be vetted when permits are issued through a middleman? And I wonder what, if any, oversight the project had? And I wonder if anyone from L&I ever inspected the site?

If anyone was monitoring the site, neighbors and construction workers said they missed some obvious signs of trouble.

Workers weren't wearing hard hats.

They were trying to tear down the building in the dark with sledgehammers and flashlights.

And union carpenters working nearby said the wall that eventually collapsed wasn't braced properly.

The demo was so screwed up, they said, they were literally waiting for the building to collapse.

And it did, apparently killing six people and hurting 13 others who had to be rescued from the rubble.

Joe Hauser, a carpenter with Local 845 and a member of the crew working across the street, said he and his co-workers had watched the demolition for days in total disbelief.

One day there was a guy out there with a sledgehammer, he said. "A f-----g sledgehammer," one of Hauser's co-workers echoed, as they stood on a nearby corner watching the chaotic rescue scene unfold.

"Never in all my years have I ever, ever, ever seen this," said Steve Cramer, a member of Carpenter's Local Union 122. "It was just a total disregard for safety. We [predicted] this last week. I can't believe they allowed the thrift store to be open."

Yesterday morning, Hauser said, he decided he had seen enough.

"I said, 'That's it, at lunch I'm going to go over there and say something, I have to, I can't go with this no more.' "

He didn't get a chance.

Cramer said the collapse was "terrifying."

"I screamed. I was almost in tears," he said.

Another worker, Dan Gillis, captured the collapse on his cellphone. Gillis, a former Marine, said for a moment he flashed back to 9/11.

When they ran downstairs, they said they saw a woman who worked at the thrift store covered in dust and soot.

"Those poor people in the thrift store," Hauser said, watching officers carrying stretchers toward the building. "They're just in there trying to get by. I just feel really bad that I didn't say something in time."

From the crowd, two women who worked nearby and had been listening to the men talk, shook their heads.

"So why didn't you say anything?" one woman asked softly.

Why didn't anyone?

Today on Check out our continuing live coverage of the building collapse.


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