Story Summary

Philadelphia building collapse

A vacant building being demolished collapsed onto a thrift store in Philadelphia, briefly trapping more than a dozen people under the rubble, city officials said.

Two people remained trapped under “tons of rubble,” Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said

The 12 others rescued earlier were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.

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An inspector who had some involvement with the building that collapsed last week in Philadelphia has committed suicide, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Police and Mayor Michael Nutter had no immediate comment. Police are investigating.

A vacant building was being torn down in the Center City section of Philadelphia when a four-story wall collapsed onto an adjacent Salvation Army thrift store, killing six people and injuring 13.

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Marijuana and pain medication were found in the blood of the crane operator at the site of a deadly building collapse, a source at Philadelphia’s City Hall with direct knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Friday.

Six people died and another 13 were injured when a four-story wall of a vacant building being demolished collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift store in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Mayor Michael Nutter publicly apologized earlier Friday “to the victims and their families” and “to the survivors and their families” for the collapse.

The mayor pushed a new set of demolition standards and controls, promising he’ll pursue whatever action is needed “in order to better ensure our collective public safety.”

He also promised answers.

“I commit to you that we will make every effort … to find out what went wrong,” Nutter said.

Witnesses described an ominous rumble before the building came down, spurring panic on the streets.

“You felt it shake,” Jordan McLaughlin told CNN affiliate KYW. “There (were) people that actually fell over. People started screaming, they ran across the street. There was people inside the building, you heard them scream.”

Searchers climbed over shards of wood, concrete and rebar looking for survivors, like the 61-year-old woman pulled alive from the rubble early Thursday. This search was called off late Thursday afternoon, by which time prosecutors and city officials had toured the scene.
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By Ben Brumfield and Sarah Hoye, CNN

Equipped with search cameras, microphones and motion detectors, and bathed in harsh LED lights that illuminated the darkness, rescue workers combed through piles of bricks and rubble early Thursday, listening for the faint tap-tap-tapping of life buried in the ruins of a collapsed building.

A day earlier, the side of a building under demolition had given way and toppled onto a Salvation Army thrift store next door.

Throughout the day Wednesday, dispirited emergency responders had carried out six people in body bags. But they received a momentary jolt of joy when, shortly before midnight, they pulled out 61-year-old Myra Plekam alive.

She was the 14th survivor.

“It feels outstanding to be able to pull somebody (out) alive,” the city public safety spokesman Michael Resnick said.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters late Wednesday night that authorities didn’t know many people were in the store at the time of the accident.

He was concerned the collapsing wall may have also hit people walking by outside.

More than a third of the rubble still needed combing through, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.

And so responders searched on. Slowly. Carefully.

Empty dump trucks came — and left with their buckets filled with cleared debris. More arrived.

Crashing sound, shaking earth

Boskie Shah had stopped to watch the demolition work just before the side of the building fell over around 10:40 a.m. ET Wednesday.

A construction crane bumped the building twice, before it swayed, he said.

“The right wall leaned toward 22nd St and collapsed on the thrift shop.”

Debris spread out, and a dust cloud rose through the air. Shah took a photo and later uploaded it to CNN iReport.

Jordan McLaughlin felt the earth shake under his feet when the wall landed on top of the thrift store, he told CNN affiliate KYW.

“There was people that actually fell over,” he said. “People started screaming, they ran across the street. There was people inside the building, you heard them scream.”

He said he helped two people out of the building. Other bystanders, including construction workers, helped four or five others out.

Another witness, Ari Barker, said he was in his office across the street when he heard “a rumbling, a very unusual sound.” He rushed to the window to see a plume of dust rising from the debris.

Some saw it coming

“I knew that was going to collapse sometime soon, and it did today,” Patrick Glynn told CNN affiliate WPVI.

“For weeks, they’ve been standing on the edge, knocking bricks off, pieces off, you could just see it was ready to go at any time. I knew it was going to happen. I seen it. I said it 10 times. Ask these guys. Every day, I said, ‘It’s gonna collapse, it’s gonna collapse.’”

Minerva Pinto works nearby. She and her coworkers thought the building looked precarious in the days before the collapse.

“We’d all seen in the past week that the building was really unstable because of the demolition,” she told CNN’s iReport.

But city officials said there were no known violations at the site.

“No violations, no complaints that we’re aware of, and all permits were valid,” Nutter told reporters earlier.

Focused on tragedy

When reporters pressed him again with questions about required inspections of the demolition work during a nighttime news conference Wednesday, Nutter appeared irritated,

“There’s a full investigation that will be conducted by the department of license and inspections,” he said.

He said he was focused on the immediate calamity and the human tragedy it had wrought.

“We’ve lost six lives today. Think about that,” he said. “We’ve actually spent most of our time today trying to see if anyone is still alive.”

Nutter asked journalists not to reveal the names of the dead.

“Family members have lost a loved one. All of those families deserve to be notified by their family members rather than hearing about it on television or the radio or the Internet or the newspaper,” he said.

CNN’s Sara Hoye reported from Philadelphia, and Ben Brumfield reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Dana Ford, Tina Burnside, Jason Hannah, Michael Pearson, Don Lemon, Henry Hanks, and Natalie Apsell contributed to this report.

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A vacant building being demolished collapsed onto a thrift store in Philadelphia early Wednesday, killing six people and trapping more than a dozen under rubble, officials said.

Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter said late Wednesday night the deceased were five women and a man, but did not release additional information.

One woman was buried under the debris for two hours but escaped with relatively minor injuries, said Mayor Michael Nutter.

Search and rescue crews continued to search for victims into the night.

“We do not know how many people were actually in the store at that time and so active search and rescue continues,” the mayor said.

“We’re taking away the debris. We still have an area to be examined, and we are hopeful that we have actually gotten out everyone who was in the building, but at this moment, we do not know for sure.”

Dogs have aided in the effort, which is expected to last at least into Thursday, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told reporters.

He described the operation as tedious.

Of the 13 people injured and taken to area hospitals, five had been released as of Wednesday afternoon.

The building collapsed onto the Salvation Army Thrift Store next door with an ominous rumble, witnesses said.

“You felt it shake,” Jordan McLaughlin told CNN affiliate KYW. “There was people that actually fell over. People started screaming, they ran across the street. There was people inside the building, you heard them scream.”

He said he helped two people out of the building. Other bystanders, including construction workers, helped four or five others out in the moments after the collapse.

Patrick Glynn said he and others moved rocks and debris to get at people stuck in the rubble.

“I knew that was going to collapse some time soon, and it did today,” he told CNN affiliate WPVI.

“For weeks they’ve been standing on the edge, knocking bricks off, pieces of, you could just see it was ready to go at any time. I knew it was going to happen. I seen it. I said it 10 times. Ask these guys. Every day, I said, ‘It’s gonna collapse, it’s gonna collapse.’”

Another witness, Ari Barker, said he was in his office across the street when he heard “a rumbling, a very unusual sound.” He rushed to the window to see a plume of dust rising from the debris.

Kate Slyman said she felt the ground rumbling as the building collapsed.

“The first thing that came to my mind was a terrorist attack,” she said.

Police described the collapse as an “industrial accident.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been told it was an accident at a demolition site, and it has investigators on the way, spokeswoman Leni Fortson said.

There were no known violations at the site.

“No violations, no complaints that we’re aware of, and all permits were valid,” Nutter said.

The Salvation Army issued a statement saying it had sent a disaster response team to the site and asking that the public pray for its employees, customers and others involved in the collapse.

The collapse occurred in a heavily traveled area of the Philadelphia’s Center City neighborhood. The nearby Mutter Museum is a popular tourist destination that houses medical oddities.

The museum said on Facebook that it would be closed until further notice. While its building was undamaged, the museum said police were using its facilities as a staging area for the rescue operation.
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A vacant building being demolished collapsed onto a thrift store in Philadelphia Wednesday morning, briefly trapping more than a dozen people under the rubble, city officials said.

Two people remained trapped under “tons of rubble,” early Wednesday afternoon, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told reporters.

“We have located them and we’re going to continue until we can get them out and we can get them to hospitals,” he said.

The 12 others rescued earlier were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.

“It is delicate. This is dangerous work,” Mayor Michael Nutter said.

The building collapsed onto the Salvation Army Thrift Store next door with an ominous rumble, witnesses said.

“I was in my office in the high rise across the street and felt and heard a rumbling, a very unusual sound,” witness Ari Barker said.

Kate Slyman said she felt the ground rumbling as the building collapsed.

“The first thing that came to my mind was a terrorist attack,” she said.

Philadelphia Police described the collapse as an “industrial accident.”

There were “no existing violations” at the building that collapsed in Philadelphia on Wednesday, injuring at 12 people, a city building inspector said.

The collapse occurred Wednesday morning in a heavily traveled area of downtown Philadelphia near the Mutter Museum, a popular tourist destination that houses medical oddities.

The museum was closed Wednesday due to the collapse, it said on Twitter.

As rescue efforts continued, University of Pennsylvania Hospital was treating four patients from the collapse, according to hospital spokesman Stephen Graff. Hahnemann University Hospital was treating two patients, according to hospital spokeswoman Gianna DeMedio. They were in fair condition.

Bystanders and construction workers rushed in to search for people trapped under the rubble, Barker said.

Rescue crews soon arrived and asked the public and news helicopters to back off to allow searchers to listen for people trapped under the debris.

“We’re asking the public to stay out of the area to allow the rescue workers access,” the police department said in a tweet.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been told it was an accident at a demolition site, and it has investigators on the way, representative Leni Fortson said.

A witness, Jordan McLaughlin, told CNN affiliate KYW, that a building “collapsed the wrong way and landed on a thrift shop” that had people inside.

McLaughlin said he and others rushed to help people out of the rubble. He said he helped two people out, and saw up to five others escape within the first 10 minutes.

The fire department was called to the site at 10:43 a.m., Capt. Jeffrey Thompson told CNN. Thompson said it wasn’t immediately clear whether it was an apartment building or an adjacent building scheduled for demolition.

Video from WPVI showed two people helping a third person, apparently hurt, away from the rubble. It also showed emergency personnel walking on and around rubble on an exposed area of a ground floor

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A man who witnessed the Philadelphia building collapse describes the aftermath and said he tried to help find those who are apparently trapped in the rubble.

As many as 10 people are believed to be trapped in the rubble of a building that collapsed Wednesday morning in Philadelphia, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said, according to CNN affiliate WPVI. (SOURCE: WPVI)

A four-story building collapsed at 22nd and Market streets in Philadelphia’s Center City area. Several people were reportedly trapped inside. This is an aerial view of the collapse courtesy of CNN.

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