- With the sentencing of two demolition contractors, another chapter has closed on the 2013 building collapse that killed six people in a Philadelphia Salvation Army store. Demolition contractor Griffin Campbell was sentenced to 15 to 30 years, and equipment operator Sean Benschop, who testified against Campbell in exchange for a plea deal, was sentenced to 7-1/2 to 15 years, according to U.S. News & World Report.
- Campbell avoided a third-degree murder conviction at trial, but both men were convicted of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and causing a catastrophe when the wall they were demolishing next to the store collapsed.
- Benschop, who was wearing a cast on his arm at the time of the collapse, admitted he took Percocet and marijuana that day and ignored warnings about using machinery to demolish the unsupported brick wall. Prosecutors also said Campbell’s bid for the project was so low that he had to cut corners on safety. Campbell allegedly removed and sold support beams and joists for salvage while the four-story walls were still in place.
Campbell blamed the collapse on building owner Richard Basciano and Plato A. Marinakos Jr., the architect who Campbell said ran the job. Marinakos received immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for his testimony against Campbell and Benschop, according to Philly.com. A city inspector, who was never accused of any wrongdoing in connection with the collapse, killed himself soon after the incident.
During sentencing last week, Judge Glenn Bronson said Campbell was a danger to the community and ignored warnings that the building might collapse. Prosecutors said that the supports Campbell removed prior to demolition left the walls unstable, demonstrating his disregard for those working on the site and nearby.
Benschop said he saw the condition of the building and should have walked away.
"Mr. Benschop advised others of the proper way to do things," Benschop’s lawyer William Davis said. "Then, faced with a decision to keep working to provide for his family or to walk away, he made a mistake."
Even though the criminal trial is over, the victims' families have filed civil lawsuits against Basciano, the Salvation Army, Campbell and others. Campbell and Benschop also face Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines totaling almost $400,000.
At the time of the 2013 incident, Philadelphia issued demolition permits without requiring the building owners to file plans or prove that their contractors were qualified, according to ABC News. But the city has since made the demolition application process much stricter.