Salvation Army Faces Wrongful Death Claim

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The Salvation Army and several entities engaged in an urban redevelopment project ignored safety warnings and lollygagged through a building demolition that resulted in the death of a 24-year-old college student, her parents claim in court.
     Nancy Winkler and John Bryan, parents of the late Anne Bryan, accuse the Salvation Army and several co-defendants of being negligent and engaging in fraudulent misrepresentation related to the redevelopment of the previously blighted Market Street neighborhood.
     Prior to effort, properties owned defendants Richard Basciano and his company, STB Investment Corp., consisted mainly of a rundown apartment building, vacant lots, pornographic supply stores, peep show parlors, and an adult movie theater, Winkler and Bryan say.
     Then, after a boost in property values, they plaintiffs say, Basciano and firm decided to shut down their porn operations along Market Street and redevelop the properties.
     Basciano’s goal, they say, was to obtain all the properties on the 2100 and 2200 block of Market Street, that he didn’t already own and extend his development, but The Salvation Army wouldn’t sell its thrift store and put a wrench in Basciano’s plans.
     According to the complaint, STB acquired an architect, Plato Marinakos Jr., to check out the structural analysis of the Salvation Army, so that Basciano could perform work on his properties from 2136-2138 Market Street.
     “The report emphasized that the structural condition of the building was ‘barely sound and in an extreme state of neglect and disrepair,” Winkler and Bryan say. “Despite knowing that their property adjoined this structurally unsound building, STB elected to begin demolition on their properties while continuing attempts to acquire the neighboring properties.”
     The plaintiffs claim Basciano and his firm accepted the lowest bid for demolition work, lied about the estimated cost on the permit application and began demolition, in violation of OSHA, without an engineering survey to determine the “possibility of unplanned collapse.”
     Shortly before work on the building was to get underway, the plaintiffs say, Thomas Simmonds, the property manager for STB, informed Major Charles Deitrick, the General Secretary of the Salvation Army Eastern District, of STB’s plans and that it required access to the Salvation Army’s roof to “prevent accidents and damage to [Salvation Army’s] property.”
     Despite this request not being met, Basciano and STB proceeded with the demolition.
     In multiple conference calls and emails to Deitrick, STB and their respective architects outlined a plan of action, but Deitrick made it clear they would “fulfill their neighborly obligations, but would work to ‘protect their investment.’
     This, Winkler and Bryan say, shows “The Salvation Army was more interested in protecting their investment than protecting their patrons and employees.”
     When STB asked Deitrick for a list of structural concerns and a plan on how to remedy them, The Salvation Army’s architect, Alistair Fraser, simply posed questions instead of making a comprehensive response, the plaintiffs say.
     Due to the nature of the project, Simmonds stressed to all involved that the building “is nearly demolished and every minute that passes increases the liability exposure to all parties,” the complaint continues.
     Still, it says, The Salvation Army kept stalling and stalling and failed to respond by the deadline made by STB.
     Simmonds, frustrated at the lack of action, emailed City officials telling them that the delay did “pose a threat to life, limb and safety” and that the impasse between the parties “must end before someone is seriously injured or worse: those are headlines none of us want to see or read.”
     Eventually, the complaint states, the parties began renegotiating.
     As the day of the demolition approached, the plaintiffs continue, The Salvation Army informed SBT that it would remain open during the demolition and that it was concerned about damage to “displayed items.”
     “The Salvation Army’s focus was not on the safety risk to the people in the store, but rather on damage to the items they were trying to sell,” the plaintiffs say.
     Despite knowing that no safe plan was in place and knowing that the Salvation Army was full of people, STB proceeded with the demolition anyway, they say.
     But the negligence did not end there, Winkler and Bryan charge.
     They say the demolition did not occur from the top down, an OSHA violation, and, as a result, the Salvation Army had a four story free standing wall looming above it that was unbraced and lacked lateral support.
     On June 5, 2013, when Sean Benschop was excavating the insides of the 2136-2138 Market Street, the Salvation Army thrift shop collapsed and six people, including the plaintiffs’ daughter, Anne Bryan, were killed.
     At the time, their daughter as shopping in the thrift store; she suffered blunt trauma, crush injuries and asphyxiation, and was pronounced dead almost twelve hours after the initial collapse.
     In addition to various Salvation Army entities, Basciano and STB Investment Corp, defendants include
     John Cranford, Charles Deitrick, Alistair Fraser, Frank Cresci, Thomas Simmonds, 2100 W Market St. Corp., 303 W. 42nd St. Corp, Plato Marinakos Jr., Plato Studio Architect LLC, Griffin T. Campbell, Nicetown House Development Corporation aka and/or dba Griffin Campbell Construction, S&R Contracting and Sean Benschop.
     Winkler and Bryan are seeking compensatory and punitive damages for intentional and fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence and wrongful death.
     They are represented by Robert Mongeluzzi of Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, in Philadelphia.

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