Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

What city, courts have done since deadly building collapse

The site of last year´s collapse, at the southeast corner of 22d and Market Streets, is to become a memorial park. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is developing "a space that would be contemplative and offer solitude in a very busy intersection."
The site of last year's collapse, at the southeast corner of 22d and Market Streets, is to become a memorial park. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is developing "a space that would be contemplative and offer solitude in a very busy intersection." ED HILLE / Staff Photographer

Reactions have reverberated through City Hall and the court system since the June 5, 2013, building collapse that killed six people and injured 14. Among the actions thus far:

 

New regulations

Within days of the Market Street building collapse, Mayor Nutter apologized for city failures in monitoring the demolition work that caused the collapse. He pledged a number of changes in how the Department of Licenses and Inspections would operate.

Among other reforms, he said new rules would require the same, higher standard of monitoring and contractor expertise at private demolitions that had been required for public, city-paid demolitions.

Nutter also recommended that City Council beef up contractor licensing and background checks.

Council convened a special committee that held hearings through the summer, emerging with a package of five bills that were passed in February.

The bills, which the mayor signed into law, require safety courses for demolition workers, mandate L&I inspections, and set other safety standards for contractors and inspectors.

 

D.A.'s investigation

Three days after the collapse, District Attorney Seth Williams' office charged heavy-equipment operator Sean Benschop with involuntary manslaughter after tests found marijuana in his bloodstream.

Contractor Griffin Campbell was charged with third-degree murder in November, after a grand jury investigation.

Williams said that the investigation would continue and that more people could be charged, but so far Benschop and Campbell are the only defendants.

Prosecutors say both men ignored warnings about the stability of the unsupported brick wall that eventually collapsed on the Salvation Army thrift shop next door.

Defense attorneys say the two men are being scapegoated for the city's failures.

 

OSHA findings, fines

 

A number of other investigations ensued after the collapse, including a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration inquiry.

In November, OSHA fined the companies owned by Campbell and Benschop nearly $400,000 for what the federal agency called "deliberate neglect" of basic safety rules.

OSHA said no further citations would be issued.

Nutter also asked the city inspector general to investigate the collapse, and he impaneled a blue-ribbon commission to examine all aspects of L&I's operations.

 

Civil lawsuits

The families of the victims and survivors of the collapse, including employees and customers of the thrift shop, have filed a number of lawsuits stemming from the tragedy.

They are suing real estate developer Richard Basciano, who owned several contiguous lots on Market Street, including the site of the demolition work and the collapse.

The suits are pending. - Troy Graham

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