Salvation Army Building Collapse; Image By Alejandro A. Alvarez,

Accidents happen all the time, but they’re even worse when they result in loss of life. Unfortunately, this is what happened when a Philadelphia Salvation Army building collapsed and claimed the lives of six people on June 5, 2013. Thirteen others who were buried in the debris and rubble survived, though some will have to live with permanent injuries they sustained when “a towering wall from an adjacent demolition project collapsed onto” the small thrift store.

So who was at fault? After all, something must have gone wrong to cause such a tragic accident. Well, as a result of the accident, a civil trial was conducted to determine liability. The trial itself lasted for more than five months, but just last Tuesday the jury issued a verdict. They found multiple parties liable for the building collapse, including the “Salvation Army, New York real estate speculator Richard Basciano and his STB Investments Corp., and Center City architect Plato A. Marinakos Jr., hired by Basciano to monitor demolition of the building that destroyed the thrift store.” They jury is expected to convene soon to consider damages for the victims.

The Salvation Army Logo, Image Courtesy of Wikipedia,
The Salvation Army Logo, Image Courtesy of Wikipedia,

How did the jury reach their verdict? For starters, they agreed the Salvation Army should be held liable because “Salvation Army officers ignored warnings of the danger of a possible collapse from Basciano’s top aide,” according to reports. The officers failed to “investigate the warnings or pass on information to the workers and customers of the store.” The jury also determined that Basciano had cut corners by hiring an “inexperienced, incompetent architect,” and found that Marinakos also cut corners by recommending “North Philadelphia contractor Griffin Campbell for the project.” Campbell and “his excavator operator, Sean Benschop,” were also found liable for “causing the disaster,” and they were the only two who were criminally convicted because of their role in the collapse. The building owner and architect “were not charged.”

But how did the building collapse in the first place? Well, due to the fact that inexperienced contractors were charged with demolishing the building that crashed into the charity, they went about the process all wrong. By tearing the “four-story building down from the inside out,” they destabilized the brick exterior walls.

Sadly, the victims of the accident all varied in ages, with one of them being the “24-year-old daughter of the city treasurer, who died along with a friend as they dropped off donations.” In an effort to ensure nothing like the accident occurs again, the city has since tightened “its requirements for getting demolition permits.” Sadly for the surviving victims and families of those who perished, the more strict requirements can’t bring their loved ones back or reverse the permanent injuries some of the survivors sustained.


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