PHILADELPHIA — A contractor was onsite for a building demolition in Philadelphia last week but isn’t to blame for the collapse of a four-story brick wall that killed six people inside an adjacent store, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Contractor Griffin Campbell feels “despondent” over the deaths, lawyer Kenneth Edelin said.
Authorities believe an excavator was being used to knock down the 40-foot wall, but Edelin insisted his client wanted the wall taken down by hand because of the Salvation Army thrift store next door, which remained open.
Though he was at the site talking to building owner Richard Basciano when the wall collapsed June 5, Campbell wasn’t in a position to see whether heavy equipment was being used.
“He was on the site, (but) he was not right there where the wall was, he was not right there where the excavator was,” Edelin said at a news conference, marking the first extensive response to the collapse on Campbell’s behalf.
Edelin said that when the collapse occurred, Campbell “was scared to death like everyone else.”
The presence of Campbell and Basciano at the scene shows “they were much more hands-on than everybody thought,” said lawyer Andrew Duffy, who represents some of the survivors who have filed lawsuits against the contractors and Basciano.
Campbell had hired subcontractor Sean Benschop for the demolition. Benschop, 42, has been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter by prosecutors who said he had marijuana and painkillers in his system and was impaired. He also had a cast on his right hand due to a prior injury.
Campbell has more than 20 years in the construction business and four years in demolition, and hired Benschop because of his “extensive experience” in demolition, Edelin said.
A grand jury has been convened to investigate whether anyone else should be criminally charged. Campbell talked to police the day of the collapse but might not cooperate with the grand jury if he becomes a suspect in the case, Edelin said.