Workers briefly trapped after collapse in North Philadelphia

NORTH PHILADELPHIA - August 19, 2011

The collapse happened shortly before 9:00 a.m. in the 900 block of Boston Street.

The workers were trapped by the rubble. They have been identified as 42-year-old Joe Nixon and 51-year-old old Devon Jackson. Both are hospitalized in stable condition.

The construction workers had been hired to rebuild the wall, which had been deteriorating for years, ever since the house next door was torn down. Investigators say the workers apparently didn't brace the wall before starting the work.

Mark Matthews was inside making breakfast for his nephew, Tony, when he was jolted by a thunderous boom.

"I thought it was an earthquake, I thought the end of the world was coming. I didn't know what was happening. I thought a Mack truck fell off the roof or something," Matthews said.

"Me and Tony were sitting in the house and he was like 'Uncle Mark, what is that?' and I said 'I don't know but we have to get out!" Matthews continued. Nixon was buried up to his waist in bricks while Jackson was completely buried.

Matthews scrambled to free Nixon first so they could both work to free Jackson.

Both Matthews and his nephew escaped without injury. As it turns out, however, Matthews planned on joining the workers on the job after feeding his nephew.

"By the grace of God I was babysitting him. If not, I would have been helping. Relief would have taken that much longer because no one would have been able to call paramedics or start tossing bricks and all three of us would have been under there," Matthews said.

L&I has condemned the house and said it will have to be torn down.

The house was the third building to partially collapse in the city in less than a week. The rear of a three-story apartment building collapsed in South Philadelphia late Tuesday, hours after the wall of a church crumbled in the Frankford neighborhood. No injuries were reported in either case.

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