Emergency crews worked to dig victims out of the rubble when a four-story wall collapsed on a busy Philadelphia Salvation Army Thrift Store on June 5, 2013. Six people died and 14 were injured, leading to manslaughter convictions to the two main contractors on the project.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) on Jan. 8 announced that Griffin Campbell was sentenced to 15–30 years in prison and Sean Benschop was sentenced to 7 1/2-15 years in prison for the death of six people and injury to 14 others in the June 5, 2013, Market Street Salvation Army building collapse. Campbell’s and Benschop’s sentence reflects the nature of their crimes and the suffering of the victims.
“I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and grief Mr. Campbell and Mr. Benschop caused the friends and families of those who lost their lives, and those who were injured, when the Market Street Salvation Army Building was crushed by a four-story, unsupported masonry wall in June of 2013,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “The assistant district attorneys who prosecuted this case and me hope that today’s sentences make clear the need for safe demolitions in our city and, most importantly, it helps to bring closure to the victims’ loved ones who are still dealing with this tragedy.”
In October 2015, Griffin Campbell was found guilty by a jury of his peers of six counts of Involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, one count of causing a catastrophe and one count of aggravated assault. Campbell had contracted to demolish the property that was located at 2140 Market Street that was next door to the Salvation Army store. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations at the site, Campbell put in place a demolition plan that left a four-story masonry wall unsupported above the Salvation Army building.
According to news reports and OSHA, Campbell’s demolition plan left the building walls unsupported so that he could salvage interior beams for resale. During OSHA’s investigation, inspectors found several violations of OSHA’s demolition construction standards and standard industry practice. Three days before the collapse, Campbell Construction allegedly removed critical structural supports for the wall that collapsed. The OSHA demolition standards prohibit the removal of lateral support walls more than one story high; the action allegedly taken by Campbell Construction left the wall unsupported for three days (each day resulted in a willful, per-instance citation).
In July 2015, Sean Benschop plead guilty to six counts of involuntary manslaughter and the additional charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy, causing a catastrophe and 13 counts of reckless endangerment. Benschop was the operator of an excavator that was used to demolish the building next to the Salvation Army building when it collapsed killing Juanita Harmon, Roseline Conteh, Mary Simpson, Kimberly Finnegan, Anne Bryan and Borbor Davis. Mariya Plekan suffered serious and permanent injury.
Benschop testified against Campbell, who Judge Glenn Bronson deemed “a danger to the community” for ignoring warnings the building was at risk of collapse. Benschop expressed remorse to the judge, who found him to be sincere in his regret about the loss of life.
A building inspector who had visited the site days before the collapse later committed suicide, but city officials determined there was no wrongdoing on his part.