Philadelphia • The 42-year-old man who was operating the excavator at a demolition site when a Philadelphia building collapsed Wednesday, killing six and injuring 14, will be charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter as well as counts of risking and causing a catastrophe, a senior law enforcement official said Friday.
Blood tests revealed marijuana in Sean Benschop’s system at such levels that “he was unfit to perform safety-sensitive, job-related duties,” according to a toxicology report.
The report found that it was “reasonably scientifically certain” that Benschop, was an “active recent user of marijuana.” Benschop has been arrested 11 previous times, including for drugs.
Benschop, who also used the alias Kary Roberts, according to court records, will also be charged with reckless endangerment and face additional charges for all of the injured victims in Wednesday’s collapse.
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Nutter apologized Friday for the deadly collapse, and he announced new standards and enforcement actions designed to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Promising to “find out what went wrong . and hold those responsible accountable,” Nutter said new rules will require better inspections of demolition sites and quicker action to shut down shoddy work.
Despite citizen complaints in the weeks before the building collapse at 22nd and Market streets on Wednesday, city building inspectors had not visited the site while the building was being demolished.
“We know that something went horribly wrong,” Nutter said in a City Hall news conference Friday. He did not specify how the city failed in its monitoring of the demolition, but said, “I want to personally apologize to the victims, their families, to the survivors and their families for what happened in our great city on Wednesday.
“I commit to you that we will make every effort and spare no resource to find out what wrong . and we will take every possible action that we can take to fix whatever systems, processes or procedures that need to be fixed to better insure our collective public safety.”
City inspectors have now been dispatched to every demolition site to check for safety violations, Nutter said.
New rules will require the same level of city monitoring and contractor expertise at private demolition sites that have previously been required during the demolition at public sites.
Contractors will be required to have a safety plan and prove to inspectors that they are following it, and contractors will be required to detail their qualifications to tear down buildings safely.
And inspectors will now be required to visit demolition sites every 15 days after the issuance of a permit, and inspectors will be required to respond to all complaints within 48 hours and provide a detailed report of their findings, along with time-stamped photos.
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