Building Collapse Injures Many: Heavy Equipment Operator Faces Charges
On June 5, a four-story building being demolished near downtown Philadelphia collapsed onto an adjacent Salvation Army thrift shop in one of the busiest areas of the city, killing six and injuring 13.
While police and city officials aren’t releasing specific details as to the cause of the accident, the collapse is being blamed on 42-year-old excavator operator Sean Benschop, who turned himself in recently to face criminal charges for the incident, including six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment. He is also facing a single count of risking a catastrophe.
One reason criminal charges were filed is because of a toxicology report on Benschop that came back showing that was operating the heavy machinery while under the influence of marijuana. There were also a number of witness statements and evidence gathered from the scene that were used to paint the picture. .
There are a number of other problems related to this incident, including the potentially questionable hiring of Beschop in the first place. He has almost no experience running an excavator, and he also has a lengthy criminal record, having been arrested 11 times since 1994 for charges, including weapons possession, theft and drugs, and he has spent two stretches in prison.
It’s likely there will be a number of lawsuits connected with this accident, and in fact, two survivors have already done so, against the contractor for the demolition, who also has a criminal record and has twice filed for bankruptcy, and the building’s owner, who may have been the one to hire Beschop. The suits alleges gross recklessness at a demolition site. One suit names the city of Philadelphia as a plaintiff, citing lax city regulation as at least one cause of the collapse.
The Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, has promised to oversee reform of the construction industry. He has already presented a reform plan, including a program of random drug tests and more thorough background checks for those who operate heavy equipment, especially on demolition projects. He also vowed to send inspectors out more frequently to check on sites during demolition projects.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in any sort of construction accident, and suspect possible negligence, contact the Texas Construction Accident Injury Attorneys at Hill Law Firm for a free consultation.