PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The New York real estate developer who owned the building being demolished next to the Salvation Army thrift store was on the stand Wednesday at the civil trial to determine any financial liability. Six people were killed and 13 were injured in that Market Street building collapse.
It took over ten minutes to get the hard of hearing 91-year-old Richard Basciano settled in, after court personnel fiddled with his headphones on the witness stand. He agreed that the most important factors in construction work included hiring a competent contractor, doing the job on budget, and keeping the worksite safe for workers and the public.
Jurors previously viewed a videotaped deposition by the demolition contractor, Griffin Campbell, one of only two people who faced criminal charges. Now in prison, Campbell testified Basciano and his wife were at the demolition site to view progress, when the walls suddenly collapsed. Campbell says his back was to the site, and he saw the shock on Lois Basciano’s face. Richard Basiano raised his voice and cursed, saying “that’s a damn lie, sorry your honor.” He says it happened while he was using bathroom facilities at a nearby parking garage he owned.
Earlier, an architect trying to shield himself from a liability verdict told jurors he “was an adviser, not a decision maker.” On the stand for a third day, architect Plato Marinakos faced intensive cross-examination. Attorney Jack Snyder, whose client is the Salvation Army, produced documentation from the Army’s lawyer, that the Philadelphia code burdened STB Corporation, with protecting the Salvation Army Thrift Store next door and the people inside.
As the building owner’s representative, Marinakos was in charge of monitoring the demolition for STB and Snyder maintains if he thought there was a danger, Marinakos could have stopped the demolition.
Marinakos, who was given immunity from prosecution during the criminal trial, acknowledged to the civil jury when he went to the job site the day before the collapse, he saw a four-story, unbraced, unsupported wall looming over the store. The next day it collapsed, killing six and injuring 13 on June 5, 2013.