Convicted collapse contractor Campbell: Architect Marinakos 'ran this job'

Demolition contractor Griffin Campbell (left) was convicted of six counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2013 collapse of a Salvation Army in Center City that left six dead and 13 others injured.

The imprisoned demolition contractor involved in the deadly 2013 Center City building collapse said all major decisions on how to raze the four-story Hoagie City building were made by the man who hired him: architect Plato A. Marinakos Jr.

Among those decisions, North Philadelphia contractor Griffin Campbell testified Friday, was the crucial choice on June 2, 2013, to switch from hand demolition to knocking down the building with a 36,000-pound excavator.

"He ran this job," Campbell said, referring to Marinakos.

Three days later, the excavator was at work when an unsupported three- to four-story brick wall remaining from the building toppled and crushed the neighboring one-story Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market Streets.

Six people died and 13 were injured on June 5, 2013, and one of the injured died 23 days later.

Campbell's testimony was on video made in a sworn deposition in January, the week after he was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison for his conviction on involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the collapse.

The video was played Friday for the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury hearing the trial of consolidated lawsuits filed on behalf of those killed and injured in the collapse.

Until the collapse, Campbell testified, he did not think the Salvation Army store or the public were in danger. Campbell said Marinakos never told him of emails among Marinakos, his bosses at STB Investments Corp., which owned the Hoagie City property, and Salvation Army officials.

The STB emails maintained that Campbell's workers needed immediate access to the thrift store roof to safely take down the wall brick by brick and prevent any threat to "life and limb."

Campbell said he also was never told that lawyers had been hired because the Salvation Army flatly refused roof access.

"If we knew, then we would never have taken the front of the [Hoagie City] building off," Campbell testified. Campbell said that he did so on Marinakos' orders and that the loss of the front wall removed the wall's last stabilizer.

At one point, plaintiffs' lawyer Robert J. Mongeluzzi asked Campbell about a June 4, 2013, phone call from Marinakos in which the architect called the freestanding wall "crazy" and ordered it down by morning.

At Campbell's criminal trial, Marinakos, testifying under a grant of immunity from the District Attorney's Office, said Campbell told him he would erect scaffolding that night and take down the wall.

"That's not only a lie, but I would have to be Superman to clear the basement out," Campbell said. He explained that the floor had been removed from the Hoagie City basement and demolition debris had been dumped there as fill. There was no stable surface on which to erect scaffolding, he said.

Campbell, 52, said Marinakos betrayed his trust and used his naivete against him. Campbell did not have a contractor's license before Marinakos recruited him for the project and he had never demolished a multistory commercial building.

He had never bid a job or drafted a contract; Marinakos took care of everything, Campbell said.

After the collapse, Campbell learned that the 2013 contract he signed to demolish several buildings in the 2100 block of Market Street gave him the sole decision about the "means and methods" he used.

The contract also gave Campbell sole responsibility for protecting the public and nearby buildings.

Campbell's contract was cited as a reason he was charged criminally.

Marinakos' contract with STB and its owner, New York real estate speculator Richard Basciano, made the architect responsible only for monitoring the demolition progress and for recommending periodic payments to Campbell.

jslobodzian@phillynews.com

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