6 Dead, 14 Rescued In Center City Building Collapse
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Team Coverage by Tony Hanson, Walt Hunter, Mike Dunn, Mark Abrams, John McDevitt, and Jericka Duncan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –- Six people were killed and at least 14 people were injured following a building collapse in Center City Philadelphia Wednesday morning. The search for survivors continued until nearly 7am Thursday.
Among those rescued from the Salvation Army store was a 61-year-old woman who firefighters pulled alive from the rubble, 13 hours after the collapse.
VIEW: Photos From The Scene
The collapse took place at about 10:30 a.m. in a pair of low-rise buildings at 22nd and Market Streets, one of which was under demolition at the time (see related story). Eyewitnesses recalled hearing a loud rumbling sound before the collapse.
“All of a sudden, I heard a rumble and the ground shake, so I immediately took off the other way,” said Kate Slyman, who was walking to her apartment at 19th and Market Streets. “And about 15 minutes later, I heard sirens.”
Authorities say 125 rescuers responded along a police dog and suburban search and rescue dog to search through the rubble using buckets and their bare hands to remove bricks and debris.
Listen To Press Conference (runs 10:10)…
At least three people, including two women, were taken to Hahnemann University Hospital. Five people were taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and five were taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said the rescued all were in stable condition with minor to moderate injuries. Of those taken to the hospital, was a 66-year-old woman who was pulled a live from the rubble at about 1 p.m., more than two hours after the initial collapse. The 13th victim, officials, say, walked away from the scene after being rescued from underneath the rubble.
An hour later, rescuers recovered the body of a 35-year-old woman found inside the Salvation Army Thrift Store.
Sources tell Eyewitness News just before 8 p.m., rescuers recovered the body of a second victim. At about 8:15 p.m., rescue crews pulled the body of a third victim from the rubble, and a fourth victim was recovered about two hours later.
At a press conference late Wednesday night, Mayor Michael Nutter confirmed six people – five women and one man – were killed in the building collapse. All six were found inside the thrift store.
“This has been a tough day here in the city of Philadelphia. But we’re a tough city and we’re quite resilient and our efforts will not stop,” said Nutter.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said 40 percent of the building still needs to be searched, mostly in rear of the store.
Nutter said crews will continue to work throughout the night.
Sources tell Eyewitness News 61-year-old Myra Plekam, of Kensington, was pulled alive from the rubble at about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday night. She was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Her condition is unknown at this time.
Officials have not released the identities of the people who died in the building collapse, but the thrift store manager’s daughter says one of the victims who died was a woman working at the store – on her first day of the job.
“I hear that she just started today at the store,” said Sasha Agosto.
Authorities said when the building under construction collapsed, it sent debris through the wall and roof of the adjacent one-story Thrift Store that was fully operational at the time, nearly flattening it.
Eyewitness Jordan McLaughlin, 18, told CBS 3 reporter Jericka Duncan that as building collapsed, he and others rushed to help people out of the rubble. He said he helped two people get out safely and witnessed several others escape.
“There were three to four people that were found within the first 15 minutes,” said McLaughlin.
Construction worker Dan Gillis was working across the street from the collapse.
“By the time we got there, the police were there, the fire department was there…They were pushing us back. There was nothing much we could do at that point,” he said.
Center city streets in the vicinity of 20th Street to the Schuylkill River and Chestnut Street to the Ben Franklin Parkway were closed to traffic and SEPTA service was impacted. SEPTA reported its trolley routes 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36 were bypassing the 22nd Street Station, and bus routes 31, 44, 48, 124, and 125 were being detoured due to the police and fire department activity.
Although the cause of the crash is under investigation, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections said the demolition company had proper permits for the work.
Officials said they will continue their search and rescue operation through the night and will not stop until they have confirmation all potential victims are removed.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput offered his support, posting to Facebook: “My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the building collapse at 22nd and Market Streets in Philadelphia this morning. Please join me in asking the Lord to watch over all those impacted and to guide the hands of medical staff and rescue workers as they tend to those in need. May the Lord give you peace.”
Stay with KYW Newsradio 1060, CBS 3, and CBSPhilly.com for more details as they become available.