The Mayor’s Office is disputing a widely disseminated report on the suicide of a city inspector who examined the 22nd and Market streets demolition site prior to its deadly collapse last week.
NBC10 reported Thursday that the Licenses & Inspections employee, Ronald Wagenhoffer, recorded a video on his cellphone before taking his life and said, in part, “It was my fault. I should have looked at those guys working, and I didn't.”
Mark McDonald, Mayor Nutter’s spokesman, said that he has seen the video and that Wagenhoffer actually said, “It wasn’t my fault.”
McDonald said the video, which was shown to him by police, is so clear that he believes the NBC10 reporter did not see the video but was told about it second-hand.
“If they saw it, they could not have made the mistake,” said McDonald, adding that the report was “scandalously wrong.”
Anzio Williams, NBC10's vice president for news, responded with a statement: "We have seen the video. We are standing behind our journalism."
The NBC10 report was referenced in a Daily News article in today’s paper and has been picked up by media across the country.
Police declined to let the Daily News view the video, saying it’s the department’s policy that evidence in suicide cases are not made public. The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a similar request.
McDonald said there are actually two videos and provided new details about them.
“One is a message to his wife and his son. The other is just sort of a general comment explaining what he was getting ready to do. He was dressed in a blue L&I shirt with the logo. He was in a vehicle. The phone was on the dashboard,” McDonald said.
Although Wagenhoffer did not say the tragedy was his fault, McDonald said, the inspector did say it affected him personally.
In the video, Wagenoffer “also said he had been having trouble sleeping. He said that he was devastated by the death and injuries and then he said, quote, ‘It wasn’t my fault,’ ” McDonald said. “And then he very briefly talked about that he wished he had done more. He made some reference to, at some point, he wished he got out of his truck. … ‘I should’ve got out of my truck. I wish I got out of my truck.’ ”
In its report, NBC10 said Wagenoffer “admitted he never truly inspected” the site on May 14, the last time it was reviewed by the city before the collapse.
"When I saw it was too late. I should have parked my truck and went over there but I didn't. I'm sorry," the TV station quoted the video as saying.
McDonald said that interpreting the video to mean he did not leave his car on May 14 is an unfounded assumption.
“He makes no mention of May 14. He never says anything about never truly inspecting the site,” McDonald said of the video.
Asked what else Wagenhoffer could’ve meant, McDonald said, hypothetically, it’s possible the inspector may have driven past the site after May 14, but before the collapse, and wished he had stopped to check it out.