Philadelphia Building Collapse Leaves Six People Dead

By Romy Varghese and Terrence Dopp | June 6, 2013

Six people died and 14 others were injured when a building undergoing demolition suddenly collapsed in Center City Philadelphia yesterday, crushing a neighboring thrift store. More than 12 hours after the disaster, searchers extracted a survivor who was alert and talking before she was sent to a hospital, the Associated Press said early today. Rescuers worked into the night hunting for more victims trapped in the rubble.

Mayor Michael Nutter provided an updated death toll at a news briefing late yesterday, according to Mark McDonald, a spokesman. He didn’t identify any of the dead. The cause of the collapse is under investigation.

“We don’t know what brought that particular wall down,” Nutter said in an earlier briefing yesterday at the scene, as crews continued their search of the debris. He said later that the dead included five women and a man, according to AP.

The latest survivor to be found was identified as Myra Plekam, 61, by the news service, citing Deputy Fire Chief Robert Coyne. Earlier, another victim was rescued after being pinned under fallen bricks and splintered wood for two hours.

The four-story building at 22nd and Market streets collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift store about 10:45 a.m., said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and Fire Captain Jeffrey Thompson. Traffic was shut down in a wide area around the site, the Philadelphia police said on the Twitter Inc. website.

The owner of the fallen building, STB Investment Corp., received a demolition permit in February, listing the primary contractor as Griffin Campbell Construction of Philadelphia. Documents released yesterday by the city show that the 14,552- square-foot (1,350-square-meter) structure was to be completely removed. No “open violations” were reported for the address.

Quick Rescue

Earlier, Ayers said 12 victims had been rescued almost immediately and had minor injuries. Another person was pulled from the rubble hours later as crews went “layer by layer’” through the debris, he said. The casualties were taken to three city hospitals.

The back of the Salvation Army store’s building also fell, and most of the structure was reduced to a pile of bricks and boards on the western edge of the city’s business district, where companies such as Independence Blue Cross and law firms such as Cozen O’Connor are based.

Office workers held back by yellow police tape snapped pictures and some gathered by a newsstand two blocks away, where a television showed news coverage.

Several hours after the collapse, workers used front-end loaders to scoop up debris that had spread across 22nd Street and drop it into two dumpsters. Rubble covered much of the city block and crews hosed down the area with water to suppress dust.

(Editors: Ted Bunker, Pete Young, Peter Vercoe.)

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