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3 injured in roof collapse at Center City store

Robert Moran, Aubrey Whelan, Inquirer Staff Writers

Updated: Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 4:43 PM

Firefighters gather in front of lululemon athletica store on the 1500 block of Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Bricks from an adjoining building fell on January 27, 2015. ( DAVE MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

Part of the roof of a neighboring building fell onto a Center City clothing store Tuesday afternoon, injuring three women, authorities said.

A piece of the ceiling hangs down inside Lululemon Athletica in Center City. Three women were taken to the hospital. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Firefighters responded when a piece of a neighboring building crashed through the roof of Lululemon Athletica. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Photo Gallery: 3 injured in roof collapse at Center City store

A roof parapet and adjoining bricks from a six-story building at 16th and Walnut Streets fell into the Lululemon Athletica store around 3:25 p.m., authorities said.

Christine Vamvalis-Haley, 60, was browsing inside the store, which specializes in workout clothing, when she heard "a huge boom."

She turned to one of the store workers and expressed alarm at the noise, and "within seconds" the ceiling collapsed, she said.

At least two women were hit by light fixtures and other debris, she said.

Police said three women, all age 27, were taken to Hahnemann University Hospital.

Vamvalis-Haley described the scene as chaotic.

"The first thing was, we couldn't breathe," she said.

A store worker opened a rear door to let in fresh air, she said.

She was visiting Philadelphia from New York with her husband, John Haley, 63. He had a doctor visit scheduled for Wednesday, so they were spending time shopping in Center City, she said.

He said he also was in the store when, "boom, the whole ceiling fell down."

His wife expressed concern over the debris and dust she inhaled. "I'm just worried about my lungs," she said. "That powder - I can't get it out of my throat."

The neighboring building originally was the Philadelphia home of Brown Bros. Harriman & Co., a private bank.

Robert Mongeluzzi, a lawyer who specializes in building collapses, visited the former bank building late Tuesday afternoon and, from a sixth-story window, took pictures of the damaged roof of Lululemon Athletica.

He described the older building as six stories with a seventh-floor partial level that has no windows. He said the parapet collapsed on the east-facing side, taking down a section that was 30 to 40 feet long and several feet in height.

"Properly maintained buildings do not collapse on their neighbors," Mongeluzzi said.

Mark McDonald, Mayor Nutter's press secretary, said neither building had a history of property-maintenance violations.

Officials from the Department of Licenses and Inspections were at the scene after the collapse. They were not immediately available for comment.

Lululemon, based in Canada, said in a statement that it was working closely with authorities investigating the accident. "Our primary concern at this time is for the safety and well-being of everyone on the ground, and [providing] them any support they need," the company said.

bmoran@phillynews.com

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215

Robert Moran, Aubrey Whelan, Inquirer Staff Writers

Read full story: 3 injured in roof collapse at Center City store

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