Philadelphia Fatal Building Collapse Brings Grand Jury Probe

By and | June 11, 2013

Philadelphia authorities said they would empanel a grand jury to investigate possible charges in connection with the collapse of a building last week that killed six people.

The June 5 accident, at 22nd and Market Streets, sent dozens of rescuers to the scene looking for survivors in the rubble at a busy Salvation Army thrift store next door.

“The scope and depth of the grand jury process will allow us to completely and appropriately investigate last Wednesday’s tragedy,” said Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams at a press conference.

A survivor, Nadine White, one of 14 people found alive, filed a lawsuit in Court of Common Pleas June 6 seeking a jury trial and more than $50,000 in damages from STB Investments Corp., the owner of the four-story building; and wrecker Nicetown House Development Corp., which does business as Griffin Campbell Construction.

Philadelphia Treasurer Nancy Winkler’s daughter, art student Anne Bryan, 24, was one of those who died, according to Mayor Michael Nutter’s office.

The DA’s office on Saturday charged Sean Benschop, 42, for his role in the collapse. Benschop, who was operating a backhoe when the building fell, was charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one count each of causing a catastrophe and risking a catastrophe. He’s being held without bail and will next appear in court on June 26.

Enough Evidence

Williams said there was enough evidence to charge Benschop from toxicology reports that showed he was under the influence of drugs and impaired at the time of the accident.

“We thought it was appropriate to charge him,” Williams said. The grand jury will investigate the roles of city agencies in the collapse and hear from witnesses to determine if other criminal charges will be filed.

The owner of the building, Richard Basciano, hasn’t been charged with a crime. Neither has the contractor, Griffin T. Campbell.

“Philadelphians have no shortage of opinion of the many people who should be held responsible,” Williams said.

“Philadelphians demand action, but our office will not be part of a rush to judgment. We will work systematically, methodically and in accordance with the law.”

Williams said there would be no further comment and declined to speculate on how long the probe would last. The case is White v. Basciano, 000987, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Philadelphia).

Editors: Glenn Holdcraft, Charles Carter

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