Records show violations before deadly Pa. collapse

PHILADELPHIA - July 18, 2013

The city released some permits, emails and other documents Friday related to the June 5 collapse, which is the subject of both criminal and civil investigations.

RELATED: See the building collapse documents

Demolition subcontractor Sean Benschop is charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly operating heavy equipment while impaired.

The new documents show that contractor Griffin Campbell had been cited in May for starting interior demolition work before informing the city, and for having asbestos-laden material in a trash bin at the site. Campbell allegedly told the inspector someone had discarded the material into his truck.

The records show that asbestos has since been found at the site, despite a pre-demolition pledge the buildings were asbestos free.

Campbell's lawyer did not immediately return a message Friday, but he has earlier said his client was an experienced contractor who was onsite the day of the collapse.

Meanwhile, new video from a transit bus released Thursday offers new images and details of the Market Street collapse.

The permits obtained to demolish three adjacent buildings on the block lack any detail on how the work was to be done, or who was to do it. Such safety plans did not have to be filed with the city.

However, a series of emails between representatives of the building owner, the Salvation Army and city Commerce Director Alan Greenberger detail the owner's stalled efforts to gain access to the space above the one-story Salvation Army property.

STB Investments Corp., a company linked to developer Richard Basciano, wanted to install a tarp and plywood over the store's roof to catch any stray debris, and to position a bucket truck over the store so workers could demolish a four-story brick wall inward - away from the store.

Thomas J. Simmonds Jr., STB's property manager, complained on May 22 that the Salvation Army was being unresponsive, causing "a situation that poses a threat to life and limb."

Greenberger told The Philadelphia Inquirer, which first reported on the emails this week, that he thought he got another email within the hour suggesting the issue was being resolved. A Salvation Army lawyer told the newspaper the two sides were still negotiating.

Neither a tarp nor a bucket truck was in place when the wall collapsed onto the store two weeks later, burying about 19 people in rubble.

Prosecutors believe Benschop may have been using an excavator at the scene to knock down the wall, rather than doing the delicate task by hand.

City Councilman James Kenney said Friday that developers frequently run into delays because of problems negotiating with their neighbors.

"You have to work them out," Kenney said. "They continued to go ahead and do the work, in a slipshod way."

A veteran city building inspector, Ronald Wagenhoffer, visited the project on May 14, six days after a citizen complained that the demolition looked unsafe. He found nothing amiss that day. Wagenhoffer committed suicide days after the collapse.

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