A memorial park on the site of a former Salvation Army store crushed by a falling wall from a nearby demolition officially opened this week. But safety issues highlighted by the collapse that killed seven and injured a dozen remain urgent, with a local contractor killed by a falling wall just one day earlier.
“Today we honor their memory by promising to never ever forget the lessons that this memorial teaches,” Mayor Kenney said at the unveiling of the memorial on June 5. “By never putting profit ahead of people, by insisting that construction projects be conducted safely, by making that 911 call when we see danger, by making safety our highest priority always.”
The June 5, 2013 collapse at 22nd and Market of a former Hoagie City shop under demolition to be converted into a parking lot onto the adjacent Salvation Army remains one of Philadelphia’s most shocking public tragedies of recent years.
“On a beautiful late spring morning in 2013, the reckless demolition of a neighboring building collapsed a wall onto the Salvation Army that stood on this site,” reads an inscription on the new memorial. “This memorial park is dedicated to the memory the six people who died here on June 5, 2013. They were from all walks of life, and each was uniquely precious to their family, friends and community. … It challenges the residents and leaders of Philadelphia to remember what happened here and to always value human life above development.”
General contractor Griffin Campbell was convicted by a jury of causing the deaths in the collapse and got 30 years. Backhoe operator Sean Benschop pleaded guilty and got 15 years. The company of the developer paying for the demolition, the late Richard Basciano, and the Salvation Army, were ordered to pay $227 million to the victims in a landmark civil lawsuit over the tragedy.
After the collapse, family of victims learned that there was talk of converting the site into a parking lot, and they organized to turn it into a memorial. Businesses, citizens, building trade unions and others raised $1.3 million for the project with a $100,000 endowment for its upkeep.
The memorial was unveiled just a day after two workers were trapped under a collapsing wall inside a site they were demolishing in rapidly-gentrifying Brewerytown. Contractor Harvey Figgs, 59, died as a result of injuries suffered when a brick wall fell on him around 11 a.m. on June 4.
The historic building they were demolishing at 26th and Jefferson had been deemed dangerous and structurally compromised by Licenses & Inspections in May 2017, NBC10 reported. It got a demolition permit in February saying it must be demolished by hand, which is what Figgs was undertaking at the time of his death.