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Victims' attorneys tour Philadelphia building collapse site

New building collapse details

PHILADELPHIA - Attorneys representing at least four victims in this week's deadly Philadelphia building collapse toured the site Sunday, and blamed the accident on what they called an "incompetent" and "unsafe" demolition company.

"This was a failure from the top down," said attorney Bob Mongeluzzi.

Mongeluzzi and other representing victims accused building owner Richard Basciano of hiring a shoddy contractor on the cheap.

"This was an incompetent demolition contractor, an incompetent excavator-operator," he said.

Mongeluzzi is best-known for winning multi-million dollar settlements in the Duck Boat disaster, the Pier 34 collapse, and the 2003 Tropicana parking garage accident in Atlantic City.

Sunday, Mongeluzzi said the building on West Market Street should have been taken down by hand, not with a backhoe. He said the building appears to have been held together with wooden beams instead of steel.

"The walls themselves do not stand on their own," said Mongeluzzi. "The floors are what tie those walls together."

According to permits, Basciano hired Griffin T. Campbell Demolition for just $10,000. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that company had a fraud conviction, and filed for bankruptcy less than two years after it opened.

There are also questions about how crane operator Sean Benschop, now charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, was hired in spite of years of drug and traffic convictions. Toxicology tests reportedly show was high on marijuana and pain killers the day of the collapse.

"This was an accident," said his attorney Daine Grey on Saturday. "Mr. Benschop is not responsible and we believe that in time the facts will show that he's not responsible."

Basciano's attorney had no comment Sunday afternoon.

A memorial service was scheduled for one of the collapse victims Sunday afternoon.

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