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Many to blame in wake of Philadelphia Building Collapse


It’s now been several days since the Philadelphia building collapse near 22nd and Market Street. And just when you thought the fallout couldn’t get any worse, it was revealed that Sean Benschop (who also goes by the name of Kary Roberts), the operator of the demolition equipment, was reportedly high on marijuana and took pain medication the day of the accident. The building, which collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift store, left six people dead and 14 injured. Moreover, several of those injured victims were buried under the rubble for an extended period of time.  Benschop, who turned himself in to the authorities Saturday, faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another, and one count of risking a catastrophe.


While Benschop may have been the one operating the equipment, there’s plenty of blame to go around here. There’s Richard Basciano, the building owner who should have done his due diligence when hiring Griffin Campbell, the demolition contractor who has a shady past of his own.  While Griffin’s license is valid, arrests involving assault, insurance fraud and drugs can be found on his rap sheet. Photo: www.cbsnews.com


Do those issues relate to this accident, not directly. However, there seems to be some serious character issues here. Moreover, if somebody is going to be operating the equipment Benschop was operating, wouldn’t you think a background check on Campbell’s part should be in order? If there was, Campbell would have found that Benschop has a rap sheet longer than his. Benschop has been arrested 11 times on charges ranging from drug trafficking to weapons. If it turns out he was indeed on painkillers and was working that crane, the DA is going to have a field day with him.


Yes folks, certain people like Benschop could be levelling properties near your area of residence in Philadelphia. Make no mistake, Benschop doesn’t define an entire group, but six people lost their lives here and somebody has to be held accountable. There’s so many warning signs flashing here that my eyes are starting to hurt. And while we’re at it, why was the Salvation Army shop even be allowed to be open with shoppers and workers present while building demolitions were in close proximity? What else is being ignored here?


On Friday, Mayor Michael Nutter recommended random drug tests for heavy equipment operators and for contractors to now require a safety plans for residents and owners who live or work near surrounding properties where future demolitions will take place. Furthermore,  Mayor Nutter pulled no punches when asked what the fate of Benschop should be:


“It is my hope that the harshest level of charges are brought against Sean Benschop and he is punished accordingly,”  said Nutter. “We must also seek answers from property owners Richard Basciano and Griffin T. Campbell who hired Benschop to do the significant job of operating heavy equipment. These three individuals bear the ultimate and sole responsibility for this tragedy. Justice will only be served if Sean Benschop receives a sentence that buries him in a jailhouse forever, just like his victims were buried on Wednesday.”


It’s no secret that regulations involving contractors in Philadelphia aren’t taken that seriously. Nutter acknowledges this, and it better be a wakeup call for city officials. If they’re smart, it would be advantageous on their part to inspect the numerous demolition sites throughout the city and take the necessary steps to prevent a tragic catastrophe like this from ever happening again.


More to come.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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photo: www.cbsnews.com