2138 Market Street Collapse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - June 5th, 2013
Kristin Sliwinski, BAE / MAE The Pennsylvania State University 2014


On Wednesday morning, June 5th, 2013, a 4-story, un-reinforced masonry building collapsed during its demolition and fell onto an attached thrift store, killing six people and injuring thirteen others. Prior to the collapse, several contacts were made with representatives from the city officials, the architect, the building owner, the Salvation Army and the respective lawyers for each party. Concerns were made from the owner to the officials and the Salvation Army regarding the safety of the demolition, but with lack of action from the city officials and the Salvation Army, the building owner continued demolition. On the morning of June 5th, as demolition work was underway, the building collapsed upon itself and on the attached Salvation Army. Upon initial investigation, the cause of the collapse has been attributed to the use of mechanical demolition equipment instead of hand equipment. The case is in legal proceedings as of December, 2013.
Figure 1: Overhead View of the Collapse - Courtesy of YouTube


Demolition, Collapse, Philadelphia, OSHA, Causalities, Masonry, Mechanical Equipment, Salvation Army

Existing Structure

On February 2nd, 2013, a building permit was issued for the complete demolition of a four story structure in the 2136-38 block on Market Street in Philadelphia. Prior to demolition, the building was empty, though prior occupants included a hoagie shop, "Hoagie City", on the ground floor. The building shared an common wall with the Salvation Army thrift store, as seen in a Google Maps street view from 2011, in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Existing Building Prior to Demolition - Courtesy of Google Maps


Events Leading Up To

Many attempts for communication between the owner of 2138 Market Street and representatives for the Salvation Army were made between February 2nd, 2013, and May 22nd, 2013 (Simmonds). The main areas of concern included the structural integrity of the Salvation Army after the demolition of 2138 Market Street, the attached chimney for the Salvation Army that used 2138 Market Street as the structural support, and the waterproofing of the common wall and roof. Thomas Simmonds, the property manager for STB Investment Corps, in an email to Alan Greenberger, Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (Global Philadelphia Association), remarks that "this nonsense must end before someone is seriously injured, or worse." This was sent on May 22nd at 4:54 pm, 14 days prior to the collapse that killed six people (Simmonds, pg. 4). Prior to the collapse, a large crack formed on the common wall between the thrift shop and 2138 Market Street. The owners of the thrift shop knew about the crack, as it was large enough for sunlight to penetrate into the store, but did not do anything to prevent injury to the patrons (Fiorillo, "Lawsuit Filed...Building Collapse").

The owner of the building, STB Investments Corp., with principal Richard Basciano, had previous issues with poor demolition practices. In 2011, a Philadelphia native was injured by falling concrete from a building owned by STB. After the man sued the company, and received a 6 figure settlement, Thomas Simmonds admits they did not change their demolition practices to prevent further injuries on any of their other job sites (Nussbaum, "Man hurt...Basciano firm").

Events During

As this video, Figure 3, taken 3 days before the collapse, shows, a mechanical excavator was being used to demolish the building. However, due to the adjacent building still being occupied, the building was to be demolished by hand, according to Joel Oshtry, attorney for STB (Simmonds, pg. 17). Parts of the mechanical equipment were found among the rubble and debris after the collapse, indicating the use of the excavator at the time of the collapse.

The video in Figure 4 shows the moment when the building collapsed, as caught on tape from the security footage of a Philadelphia city bus by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority. The main wall, though specified to be demolished away from the Salvation Army, fell directly onto the roof of the building. This caused the roof of the thrift shop to collapse, killing 6 people inside of it and injuring 13 others. Of the 6 who died, one was a worker of the Salvation Army (Van Zuylen-Wood, "These Are...Building Collapse").

Figure 3 - Video of the demolition at 2138 Market Street on June 2nd, 2013 - Courtesy of YouTube

Figure 4 - Video of the collapse at 2138 Market Street on June 5th, 2013 - Courtesy of YouTube

Contributing Factors

While details have not been made public due to ongoing investigations with both the Salvation Army and STB Investments, my opinion is that the demolition company failed to follow proper specifications set forth by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, OSHA, regarding demolition of walls and masonry sections. According to OSHA 1926.854(b), no wall greater than 1 story may stand alone without proper lateral bracing (Occupational Health & Safety Administration). As seen in Figure 4, the entire wall section above the height of the thrift store collapsed in a single unit. This indicates the lateral bracing from the floor diaphragm was removed, and the wall became unstable.

Additionally, while Oshtry specified no mechanical equipment to be used (Simmonds, pg. 17), Figure 3 illustrates an excavator being used to demolish the building. At the time of the collapse, the excavator operator had both marijuana and painkillers in his system (Marks). Both are known to effect one's judgement, and can alter perception. Both of the two drugs, as well as the failure to comply with orders regarding the demolition, could be the reason the wall fell towards and occupied building, killing six people.

When looking at the case from the loss of life prevention, both parties may contribute. The Salvation Army was contacted several times to set up a protection plan for the thrift shop at 2140 Market Street (Nussbaum, Paul, Mark Fazlollah, and Bob Warner). They chose to ignore warning signs immediately prior to the collapse (Fiorillo, "Lawsuit Filed...Building Collapse"), and they did not close off the building to patrons. On the other side, STB Investments, who hired the demolition crew that directly violated OSHA standards regarding demolition, also employed a site inspector who committed suicide the friday after the collapse (Buckley). They also proceeded with the demolition, even though several key people brought up concerns regarding the safety of the site via emails between the important people involved (Simmonds).


On the Friday following the collapse, Mayor Michael Nutter has announced new regulations for demolition contractors, including "heightened permitting and inspection requirements for demolition; [requiring] details about a contractor's experience and qualifications; a site safety plan to protect adjacent properties; and a detailed schedule of work; [as well as requiring] an engineering report for demolition of commercial buildings above three stories, and [moving] to prohibit the use of heavy machinery for demolition of attached buildings." Another change is that the city of Philadelphia will act on any complaints regarding demolitions within one to two days after the complaint has been filed. Several local construction workers and engineers noticed that the demolition did not seem right, but nothing was done to prevent the collapse (Bryan). The full set of new rules are as follows (Collins Walsh):

  • Under new rules that administration will implement on its own, contractors applying for demolition permits must:
    • Provide the city with their relevant experience and qualifications
    • Create site-safety plans concerning pedestrians and adjacent properties
    • Establish a schedule for phases of the demolition
    • Provide a professional engineer's report on adjacent properties when demolishing buildings three stories or taller

  • The city will also:
    • Act on all complaints regarding demolitions within 24-48 hours
    • Require an inspection before work begins
    • Revoke permits if work does not begin within 45 days of being granted
    • Issue Stop Work Order notices until a hearing is held if a contractor begins work before getting a permit
    • Require all demolition contractors provide proof of insurance and tax clearances for all employees

  • Additionally, the mayor proposed new measures that will need City Council approval. These proposals would:
    • Establish a separate licensing category for demolition contractors
    • Require background checks and conduct random drug tests for heavy-equipment operators
    • Impose a $1,000 fee that must be paid before demolition resumes if a Stop Work Order is issued after a contractor begins work without notifying the city

As for legal repercussions, lawsuits have been filed against the Salvation Army in Greater Philadelphia, The Trustees of theSalvation Army in Pennsylvania, The Salvation Army Eastern Territory, the National Headquarters of the Salvation Army, Alistair Fraser,the Operations Manager for the Salvation Army Eastern Territory, responsible for architectural and/or engineering issues for the Salvation Army Thrift Store, Charles Deitrick and John Cranford, respectively the General Secretary and Administrator of the Salvation Army, Richard Basciano, owner of STB, STB Investments Corporation, Thomas Simmonds, Frank Cresci, 2100 West Market Street Corporation, 303 West 42nd Street Corporation, Nicetown House Development Corporation a/k/a Griffin Campbell Construction, Griffin T. Campbell, S&R Contracting, Sean Benschop, the excavator operator, Plato Studio Architect, LLC, and Plato Marinakos, Jr.

Decisions have not been reached in the civil action case. Sean Benschop has also been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter.


In this tragic demolition collapse, the blame cannot be placed on a single person or party. Several accounts of negligence from all sides have been found, and everything combined caused this accident. The city of Philadelphia issued new rules and regulations to help prevent something like this in the future, but they did not have proper inspections to the site prior to the collapse. STB Investments hired a poor contractor, falsified documentation about the project, and did not halt demolition even though they were aware that the building and its surroundings were in imminent danger. Salvation Army also knew about the dangers, but chose not to react, therefore endangering the patrons and workers of the thrift shop. S&R Contracting did not follow OSHA regulations regarding the demolition, nor did they follow guidelines set forth by STB to protect people passing by the site.

Many mistakes were made on all accounts, and it is very sad and tragic that those mistakes caused six people to lose their lives, as well as thirteen others to be injured. Luckily, the city of Philadelphia has taken measures so this will not happen again, at least not within the city.


Associated Press. 2013. "Building collapses in Philadelphia." Chicago Daily Herald, June 6.
  • This newspaper article recaps the events of the collapse, focusing on the witnesses reports to the collapse and the preceding events.

"AssociatedPress". 2013. Raw: Bus Camera Captures Pa. Building Collapse. YouTube Video, 0:59. July 19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QmC3yYImcI.
  • This YouTube video shows a security video from a Philadelphia bus capturing the moment of the collapse on June 5th, 2013.

Bryan, Jay, and Nancy Winkler. 2013. "Take Close Look at L&I." philly.com, October 18. http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/20131018_Take_close_look_at_L_I.html?c=r.
  • This is a commentary on the building collapse by Jay Bryan, a licensed professional engineer, and Nancy Winkler, Philadelphia's city treasurer.

Buckley, Bruce. 2013. "Following Collapse, Philadelphia Tightening Demo Standards." Engineering News-Record 18, no. 270 (June 24): 9.
  • This magazine article discusses the June 12 press conference regarding the collapse, the deaths and injuries during the collapse, as well as the apparent suicide of the last inspector of the demolition site.

Collins Walsh, Sean. 2013. "After Collapse, Nutter announces new regulations for demolition contractors. PhillyClout, June 7. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/cityhall/After-collapse-Nutter-announces-new-regulations-for-demolition-contractors.html?c=r.
  • This news article outlines new regulations set forth by the mayor, and follows the press release when Mayor Nutter announced the new regulations.

Fiorillo, Victor. 2013. "Demolition Worker Charged with Deaths in Building Collapse Has Surrended [sic]." Philadelphia Magazine, June 8. http://www.phillymag.com/news/2013/06/08/demolition-worker-charged-building-collapse/.
  • This online magazine article provides details about the backhoe operator, Sean Benschop, and what happened during and after the collapse.

Fiorillo, Victor. 2013. "Lawsuit Filed Against Salvation Army in Building Collapse." Philadelphia Magazine, June 11. http://www.phillymag.com/news/2013/06/11/salvation-army-sued-building-collapse/.
  • This online magazine article discusses the first lawsuit filed after the collapse of the building.

Fleming, Omari. 2013. "SEPTA Releases New Video of Deadly Building Collapse." myfoxphilly.com, August 1. http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/22879087/septa-releases-new-video-of-deadly-building-collapse.
  • This short article and accompanying videos show the collapse of the building and the news report from later in the day.

Global Philadelphia Association. 2013. "Alan Greenberger." Global Philadelphia: Meet the World Here. http://globalphiladelphia.org/people/alan-greenberger.
  • This is a information regarding Alan Greenberger, and his relationship with the city of Philadelphia.

Howard, Bryan. 2013. "Philadelphia Building Collapse Wrongful Death Complaint." Attribution Non-Commercial. September 3. http://www.scribd.com/doc/165145989/Philadelphia-Building-Collapse-Wrongful-Death-Complaint
  • This is the lawsuit filed against the Salvation Army in Greater Philadelphia, The Trustees of theSalvation Army in Pennsylvania, The Salvation Army Eastern Territory, the National Headquarters of the Salvation Army, Alistair Fraser, Charles Deitrick, John Cranford, Richard Basciano, STB Investments Corporation, Thomas Simmonds, Frank Cresci, 2100 West Market Street Corporation, 303 West 42nd Street Corporation, Nicetown House Development Corporation a/k/a Griffin Campbell Construction, Griffin T. Campbell, S&R Contracting, Sean Benschop, Plato Studio Architect, LLC, and Plato Marinakos, Jr. It details what went wrong and who is to blame for it.

"Kevin2200". 2013. Demolition of the old "Hoagie City" building. YouTube Video, 1:38. June 5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPnMSpSUHbA. (October 3, 2013)
  • This YouTube video documents the demolition work on Sunday, June 2nd, 2013, three days prior to the collapse.

Loftus, Peter, and Eliot Brown. 2013. "Philadelphia Building Collapse Kills 6." Wall Street Journal (Online), June 6.
  • This news article details the events of the collapse through a press conference given the Wednesday night of the collapse by the Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.

Marks, Gene. 2013. "After Building Collapse, What to Know About Hiring Contractors." Philadelphia Magazine, June 13. http://www.phillymag.com/news/2013/06/13/philadelphia-building-collapse-contractor-blame/.
  • This online magazine article details different considerations for hiring contractors, both for individuals and businesses.

Mathis, Joel. 2013. "Building Collapse at 22nd and Market: Latest News." Philadelphia Magazine, June 5. http://www.phillymag.com/news/2013/06/05/breaking-building-collapse-22nd-market/.
  • This is an online magazine article that updated readers on press releases, photos, and social media updates regarding the collapse.

Nussbaum, Paul. 2013. "Man hurt by falling concrete settles with Basciano firm." Philly.com, June 14. http://articles.philly.com/2013-06-14/news/39954454_1_property-manager-simmonds-richard-basciano.
  • This online article details information regarding a man who won a settlement after getting hit with falling debris from another property owned by STB Investment Corp. This highlights the failure to properly maintain other buildings owned by the same company.

Nussbaum, Paul, Mark Fazlollah, and Bob Warner. 2013. "Demolition continued at collapse site despite worries about danger." Philly.com, July 15. http://articles.philly.com/2013-07-15/news/40571482_1_thrift-store-salvation-army-stb-investments-corp.
  • This online article, written by Inquirer staff writers, details some of the early emails between the building owner, city officials, and the Salvation Army regarding the safety of the demolition.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration. "Demolition." United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/constructiondemolition/.
  • These are the standards set forth by OSHA regarding demolition for the general and construction industries, including 1926.854, the removal of walls, masonry sections, and chimneys, and 1926.856, the removal of walls, floors, and material with equipment.

Pasquariello, Ann Agnes. 2013. "2126 through 2138 Market Street - STB Investments Corporation." Attorney Letter, Divisional Deputy City Solicitor, Housing & Code Enforcement Unit, June 14.
  • This is a letter from an attorney for the city of Philadelphia to the attorney of STB Investment Corporation regarding the continued demolition of the site and the removal of all remaining debris.

Simmonds, Thomas, Alan Greenberger, Alex Wolfington, and Others. 2013. Email Correspondence. http://cityofphiladelphia.github.io/disclosure-docs/emails/Emails.pdf.
  • This is a collection of emails sent between key decision making members about inquiries leading up to the collapse.

Van Zuylen-Wood, Simon. 2013. "Nutter Announces New Regulations and Proposals on Building Demolitions." Philadelphia Magazine, June 7. http://www.phillymag.com/news/2013/06/07/nutter-announces-regulations-proposals-building-demolitions/.
  • The online magazine article highlights the new regulations and proposals by the Mayor of Philadelphia regarding private demolition work.

Van Zuylen-Wood, Simon. 2013. "These Are the Victims of the Building Collapse." Philadelphia Magazine, June 6. http://www.phillymag.com/news/2013/06/06/victims-building-collapse/
  • This is a list of the people who passed away in the collapse, as well as some information regarding them before, during, and after the collapse.

Weiss, Eric A. 2013. "2140 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA." Response Letter, Attorney for Salvation Army, June 18.
  • This is a response letter from the attorney of the Salvation Army located at 2140 Market Street regarding the clean up of debris on the site. This is in response to a notice that the site is imminently dangerous, and the Salvation Army will be responsible for any emergency abatement work done by the city.