'Miracle on Market Street': collapse survivor continues to recover

PHILADELPHIA - June 14, 2013

13 hours after the wall gave way, killing six people, Maryia Plekan was saved.

We are now learning a lot more about her.

Plekan is a Ukrainian immigrant who came here to this country alone just over 7 years ago.

Her good friend and neighbor says she is in good spirits and continues to improve. She says it is nothing but a miracle that she is alive.

"She's a very, very strong woman," said Vicky Morales. "And when we saw her in the hospital last Saturday, she said, 'Oh, my neighbors, my neighbors' and we said, 'God is with you.'"

Mariya Plekan's next door neighbor says she and her husband were stunned when they learned on Action News that it was Mariya that was being pulled out of the rubble alive, some 13 hours after the building collapse.

"I couldn't believe it, I mean we were crying. My heart cried, especially knowing that she was here by herself because her family was back home."

She says Mariya had gone to the Salavation Army Thrift Store looking for bargains and never would have imagined the inexplicable tragedy that unfolded.

"I think it's a miracle of God," she said. "The fact that she was trapped there for so many hours & they found her alive is because God wanted her to be here on earth."

Vicky Morales said Mariya came to this country alone, working as a caretaker for the elderly to earn money to send back to her family in Ukraine.

"Her children need her, and that's the main reason she she's here. She's here working for her children, to feed her family back home."

Meanwhile, City Council has formed a special investigation committee to look into demolition practices in the city.

One of the members of the committee is stunned that there was no scaffolding to shield the thrift store from any falling debris, something she says would have been required under the previous administration's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI).

"Clearly, the basic safety plan that was utilized during NTI would have been caught immediately when our inspector went on a site, making sure that the grout is wet, making sure that there is safety netting, making sure that there is a clear pathway, we're talking about a center city demolition," said Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez.

There will be a lot of questions asked at the City Council hearing next Wednesday at 10am. The councilwoman says there has been an uptick in the number of her constituents concerned about buildings collapsing on them and their property as they are being demolished.

She's hoping this hearing will shed light on what needs to be done to prevent these kinds of tragedies.

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