Building collapse probe focuses on demolition contractor

TIOGA-NICETOWN - June 6, 2013

Records reveal Griffin Campbell has a hefty criminal history, including fraud and theft, in connection with an insurance scam. But that didn't stop him from getting a construction license from the city.

"He was qualified in that he complied with what the law required," Mayor Michael Nutter's press secretary, Mark McDonald told me. But McDonald acknowledged compliance with the law does not include demonstrating expertise.

The city is now investigating what went wrong.

"We did not follow up, and we are definitely looking into that," said Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams.

City officials cannot tell us if Campbell had any construction training. They only know he had a license, and the proper demolition permits were pulled.

But Mayor Nutter confirmed a required pre-demolition visit was never made to check the safety and security of the site.

"24 hours into the situation, we have a lot to do," said Nutter on Thursday. "We want to know what happened, how did it happen, and, going forward, how we can best prevent any incident like this happening anywhere in the city."

Part of the problem, 6abc has learned, is that Campbell's company may never have alerted the city they planned to start demolition, which would have triggered a visit by a city inspector.

"The procedure is normally our building inspectors assigned to the district are the ones responsible, once they get the permit, to follow the job to its completion," said Williams.

Licensed professional engineer Robert Brehm surveyed the site. He said in the interest of safety he would have placed a support against the wall, and evacuated the nearby thrift store before demolition began.

"If that had happened, we wouldn't be talking," said Brehm. "It wouldn't be a story, we wouldn't have lost six lives, and I hope that's the end of that count."

"Something obviously went wrong here yesterday, and perhaps in the days before," said Nutter. "That is what the investigation is for."

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