Ubiñas: Justice for Market Street building collapse victims

Richard Basciano (left), owner of the building that collapsed at 22nd and Market Streets in 2013, killing six and injuring 13 others.

Finally, some justice.

After 15 long weeks of testimony, it took a jury less than a day to find all defendants responsib

Finally, some justice.

After 15 long weeks of testimony, it took a jury less than a day to find all defendants responsible in the civil trial of the deadly June 5, 2013, Center City building collapse that killed six people and injured 13 others.

The verdict, satisfying as it was, won’t bring back any of the dead. It won't heal the injured.

It won’t give Mariya Plekan back the legs she lost after being trapped under the rubble for 13 hours.

But finally, in a small way, it holds accountable the many who refused to own the blood on their hands.

That includes the building’s 91-year-old owner Richard Basciano, who signed off on an inexperienced contractor and then used his contacts and cachet to insulate himself from the horror that unfolded when an unsupported wall of the building collapsed onto the neighboring thrift store at 22nd and Market streets.

It includes the Salvation Army, whose "Soldiers of Jesus Christ" — as one of its majors called its representatives during the trial — put their chain of command above the lives of their employees and customers.

It includes architect Plato Marinakos Jr., who escaped criminal charges by exchanging his testimony for immunity.

Only contractor Griffin Campbell and excavator Sean Benschop — who operated an excavator on site when the unsupported three- to four-story brick wall toppled and flattened the one-story thrift shop — were criminally charged. They were also found liable in the civil case.

Wednesday, the victims were awarded a $227 million settlement to be paid by the Salvation Army and Basciano.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi called it the largest personal injury settlement in Pennsylvania state court history.

It's nowhere close to enough to undo the plaintiffs' pain and suffering and loss.

Still, I hope the victims and their families feel some sense of justice because those who considered themselves untouchable finally have to pay with what they always valued most: money. 

I hope that for once we do what we never seem to do after tragedies — learn from our failures and never again repeat the actions, or inactions, that led to the avoidable tragedy that cost innocent people their lives.

I hope we forever remember their names:

Anne Bryan

Roseline Conteh

Borbor Davis

Kimberly Finnegan

Juanita Harmon

Mary Lea Simpson

le in the civil trial of the deadly June 5, 2013, Center City building collapse that killed six people and injured 13 others.

The verdict, satisfying as it is, won’t bring back any of the dead. It won't heal the injured.

It won’t give Mariya Plekan back the legs she lost after being trapped under the rubble for 13 hours.

But finally, in a small way, it holds accountable the many who refused to own the blood on their hands.

That includes the building’s 91-year-old owner Richard Basciano, who signed off on an inexperienced contractor and then used his contacts and cachet to insulate himself from the horror that unfolded when an unsupported wall of the building collapsed onto the neighboring thrift store at 22nd and Market streets.

It includes the Salvation Army, whose "Soldiers of Jesus Christ" — as one of its majors called its representatives during the trial — put their chain of command above the lives of their employees and customers.

It includes architect Plato Marinakos Jr., who escaped criminal charges by exchanging his testimony for immunity.

Only contractor Griffin Campbell and excavator Sean Benschop — who operated an excavator on site when the unsupported three- to four-story brick wall toppled and flattened the one-story thrift shop — were criminally charged. They were also found liable in the civil case.

The jurors will return to the courtroom soon to decide how much will be paid to the victims of the collapse.

No amount will undo the pain and suffering. No amount will be enough, but I hope they get a lot, and then some. Because money, or the loss of it, is often the only thing that gets through to those who consider themselves untouchable. 

I hope that for once we do what we never seem to do after tragedies — learn from our failures and never again repeat the actions, or inactions, that led to the avoidable tragedy that cost innocent people their lives.

I hope we forever remember their names:

Anne Bryan

Roseline Conteh

Borbor Davis

Kimberly Finnegan

Juanita Harmon

Mary Lea Simpson