Attorney: Contractor was not responsible for deadly collapse

Firefighters view the aftermath of a building collapse, Thursday, June 6, 2013, in Philadelphia. On Wednesday, the building under demolition collapsed onto a neighboring thrift store, killing six people and injuring 14, including one who was pulled from the debris nearly 13 hours later. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
June 11, 2013 2:43:36 PM PDT
The attorney for the demolition contractor who worked on the building in Center City that collapsed and claimed the lives of six people last week answered reporters' questions on Tuesday.

Kenneth Edeline made his case heard through today's press conference and a statement he released on Monday that his client Griffin Campbell was not responsible in any way for the collapse.

"He is not responsible for this tragedy that happened," Edeline said.

In the statement, Edeline said, "Inspectors from OSHA, the City, and on behalf of the Salvation Army visited the site after demolition had started and gave the site a clean bill of health."

With that said, Edeline was asked during the press conference "how could it have gone so wrong?"

"I don't know how it could have gone so wrong. I wasn't there. What I do know is Mr. Campbell didn't have anything to do with it going wrong," Edeline said.

Edeline said Campbell was on the job site on the day of the collapse.

Edeline said Campbell did not stop the excavator from being used for demolition purposes because he didn't see it. Campbell, according to his attorney, was on the site, but not near where the excavator was.

"[Mr. Campbell] did not allow the excavator to be used for demolition. The excavator was there on that day purely to remove debris. Because of the proximity of the wall in question to the Salvation Army that demolition always had to be done by hand," Edeline said.

The building at 22nd and Market in Center City was being demolished when it collapsed onto a neighboring Salvation Army Thrift Store last Wednesday, killing two employees and four customers.

"My client is despondent. He is certainly deeply affected by what has happened. He is saddened. He is remorseful and he feels terrible for the families and the city," Edeline said.

Police allege a heavy equipment operator was high on marijuana when the collapse happened. He surrendered Saturday to face charges in the deaths.

The excavator operator, 42-year-old Sean Benschop, faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of risking a catastrophe. His attorney said it was an accident and his client is not responsible for it.

Griffin Campbell's attorney said Benschop was hired because he had extensive experience in demolition. He said, it was his understanding, that his client had used Benschop on past construction sites.

"I believe [Benschop] already has 13 years of experience. He had several, if not 100, of projects for the city of Philadelphia where he has done demolition," Edeline said.

Edeline said if Benschop was using the excavator at the time of the collapse for demolition, he was doing something that "he was not supposed to do per the instructions of Mr. Campbell."

Edeline said if his client saw Benschop using the excavator for demolition he would have stopped him.

A demolition permit indicates that contractor Griffin Campbell was being paid $10,000 for the job.

In the fallout of the collapse, officials have begun inspecting hundreds of demolition sites citywide in recent days. Mayor Michael Nutter said Friday that the city was preparing to implement sweeping changes in its regulations of building demolition.

Edelin released the following statement Monday:

Mr. Campbell, and the Campbell Construction Company, grieves for the families who have lost loved ones. Mr. Campbell also prays for speedy recoveries for the fellow citizens of this city who were injured. The Campbell Construction Company joins with the Mayor, L&I, and OSHA in asking for a far-reaching and thorough investigation. As his attorney, I respectfully ask that there be no rush to judgment while this investigation is conducted. Mr. Campbell is confident that the results of the investigation will reveal that professional and safety-conscious business practices were in place at the 22nd and Market Streets site. I am confident that when all of the facts are known, Mr. Campbell will not be deemed responsible for the tragedy that happened. Again, our prayers and condolences are extended to the families and the injured.

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