Inspector in Philadelphia collapse commits suicide

A view of the building collapse in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 5th.
June 13, 2013 7:11:39 PM PDT
City officials gathered Thursday to mourn the loss of one of their own. 52-year-old Ronald Wagenhoffer died in an apparent suicide Wednesday night in the city's Roxborough section.

Wagenhoffer was the L&I inspector who checked out the building that collapsed at the corner of 22nd and Market streets just over a week ago.

According to Action News sources, Wagenhoffer's wife discovered him in his pickup truck in an isolated area of the 100 block of Shawmont Avenue after receiving a text message from him.

Police and medics responded to the scene just after 9:00 p.m. and pronounced Wagenhoffer dead a short time later. Authorities say he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

Speaking from Chicago, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called Wagenhoffer's death "another tragedy in our city."

Last Wednesday the wall of a four story building fell onto the Salvation Army Thrift Shop, killing six people and injuring 13 others. The Department of Licenses and Inspections says Wagenhoffer inspected the building prior to demolition on May 14th due to a complaint, but no issues were reported.

Wagenhoffer devoted 16 years of service to the City of Philadelphia. Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams said Wagenhoffer started with Department of Public Property and worked his way up the ranks to be one of the top code officials at L&I.

Williams called Wagenhoffer "a dedicated civil servant who loved his job, mentored other young people, new inspectors. He was a professional craftsman."

He is survived by his wife, Michelle, and their son.

Sean Benschop, who was operating the excavator at the time of the collapse, already faces a number of charges including 6 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Police say he had marijuana and painkillers in his system.

The District Attorney is convening a grand jury to look into what factors led to the collapse. Excavator operator Sean Benschop already faces a number of charges including six counts of involuntary manslaughter.

While this investigation is underway, officials say Wagenhoffer was not to blame.

Deputy Mayor Gillison insisted, "This man did nothing wrong. The department did what it was supposed to do, under code that existed at the time."

Officials say counseling services have been available to Licenses and Inspections staff since the June 5th tragedy.

Later on Thursday, family and friends gathered in South Philadelphia to remember 75-year-old collapse victim Juanita Harmon. They couldn't help but react to word of the suicide.

"It must've been quite a burden for him to take his own life," said Barbara Gordon.

"We have to pray for him, his family, his soul. We can't make speculations because we don't know," said Rev. Willie Singletary.

Harmon's two sons did not want to be on camera. They are considering legal action against the city.


Load Comments