Woman pulled from Center City building collapse loses both legs

PHILADELPHIA - June 17, 2013

The extent of Mariya Plekan's injuries was revealed for the first time on Monday by the lawyer she has hired to represent her.

Attorney Andrew Stern says there has been a lot of misinformation out there about Plekan, right down to her name and age.

Six victims who lost their lives were pulled from the rubble before Plekan. Her attorney told Action News about her horrifying 13 hours and how she was able to survive.

The Action Cam caught the moment 52-year-old Salvation Army Thrift Store shopper Mariya Plekan of Kensington was pulled from the deadly building collapse at 22nd and Market Streets almost two weeks ago.

"She remembers praying constantly, hoping that she could stay alive. And then she remembers this person, who we now know to be Capt. O'Neil, toward the end, who was vigorously trying to pull her out," said Stern.

Stern says for 13 hours, his client was weak but aware of mostly everything happening around her.

She was able to breathe through an air pocket as she tried her best to scream out for help. But she wasn't able to because of the brick and metal that trapped her body.

"She is perhaps one of the most courageous people I've ever met. And she had such a strong will to live. She has a strong faith in God, and she was not going to give up," said Stern.

Once she was out, her injuries were so bad, doctors were forced to amputate both her legs close to her pelvis.

"They had had to take the surgery all the way up to the base of her hip. She's had her femur bone and socket removed. Half of her body has been amputated," said Stern.

Plekan's adult son and daughter are by her side now at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

She came to the U.S. from Ukraine 10 years ago, and she was taking care of an elderly woman before the collapse.

Now Plekan will need around-the-clock care, which is one reason her attorney says he will be filing suit in the near future.

"Those people who are responsible, they are going to be brought to justice. And we will see that that gets done," said Stern.

Stern says his client still has a long road ahead.

Her children live in Ukraine but they're trying to move here to the U.S. so they can stay by her side.

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