Thursday, September 3, 2015

Contractor charged with third-degree murder in Market Street building collapse

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FILE - An overhead shot of the scene of the building collapse at 22nd and Market Street. The contractor was charged Monday with charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
FILE - An overhead shot of the scene of the building collapse at 22nd and Market Street. The contractor was charged Monday with charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Story Highlights
  • Griffin T. Campbell has been charged with six counts of third-degree murder.
  • Prosecutors allege that Campbell's decisions prioritized speed and cost over safety.
  • He is also facing recklessly endangering another person, causing catastrophe and criminal conspiracy charges.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said today that contractor Griffin T. Campbell has been charged with third-degree murder, as well as manslaughter, in connection with the building collapse on Market Street that left six people dead.

"The motive is greed," Williams said, noting a grand jury voted last week to indict Campbell, 49, on six counts of third-degree murder.

Thirteen others were injured in the June 5 collapse at 22nd and Market Streets, which happened when a four-story building that was being demolished toppled onto an adjoining Salvation Army thrift store. Excavator operator Sean Benschop was previously charged with involuntary manslaughter and other offenses for his alleged role the collapse.

Benschop was acting under Campbell's direction in the "unsafe" demolition practices employed "for greed," Williams said.

More coverage
  • Building collapse victim tells of 13-hour ordeal
  • READ: Grand jury presentment
  • Prosecutors allege that Campbell's decisions about the demolition prioritized speed and cost over safety, and led to the collapse.

    Campbell chose to remove wooden joists holding up the floors, to increase his potential profit, since the joists can be resold, officials said. That means taking down the building from the inside out, rather than the top down, and left exterior walls unsupported.

    "They should have been taking the building down brick by brick, floor by floor," Williams said, referring to a more costly and time-consuming method.

    One worker testified that he raised concerns with Campbell, but was rebuffed.

    "It was a lot of risk doing it the way he was doing it," the worker testified, according to the grand jury presentment.

    Campbell had time to do the work properly, the presentment says, but instead sent workers to other sites for much of April and May, delaying the demolition process at the Market Street building.

    Authorities also contend that Campbell could have used scaffolding or another bracing to support the exterior walls and prevent a collapse.

    Williams said will ask that the contractor, who is expected to turn himself in this afternoon, be held without bail.

    Campbell is also facing charges that include recklessly endangering another person, causing catastrophe and criminal conspiracy.

    Property owner Richard Basciano hired Campbell's construction company to demolish the building.

    Williams announced the week after the collapse that an investigating grand jury -- which determines if there is enough evidence for prosecutors to file charges -- would look into the incident. The grand jury's investigation is continuing, Williams said.

    "I hope Griffin Campbell’s arrest today will give the victims and their families some small sense of relief, though I know their pain will never go away," Williams said. "This arrest is just one step along the road to justice."

    Multiple civil lawsuits have also been filed in connection to the collapse.

    Check back for details as they develop.

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