Penn Live, June 7, 2013
A 42-year-old man who was allegedly high while operating demolition equipment when a downtown building collapsed and killed six people will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, a top city official said Friday.
Sean Benschop faces six counts on that charge, six counts of risking catastrophe and other charges, said Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison.
Authorities have said Benschop had been using an excavator Wednesday when what was left of the four-story building gave way and fell on top of a neighboring Salvation Army thrift store.
A toxicology report, witness statements and other evidence shows Benschop was high on marijuana that day, Gillison said.
Benschop, who also goes by the name Kary Roberts, has been arrested at least 11 times since 1994 on charges ranging from drugs to theft to weapons possession, according to court records. He was twice sentenced to prison in the 1990s after being convicted on drug trafficking charges. Benschop’s last arrest, for aggravated assault, came in January 2012, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
Among those killed was a woman who was working her first day at the store. Thirteen people were hurt.
The city is also preparing to implement sweeping changes in its regulations of building demolition, Mayor Michael Nutter said Friday, adding that every active demolition site is being inspected for safety.
“We will not accept the status quo in the face of this tragedy,” Nutter said.
Councilman James Kenney, among others, called for a review of the demolition application and inspection process and demanded a stricter process for demolition companies.
“This is happening all over the city,” he said. “I need to know who the workers are who are there, what they know, what they don’t know, how they’ve been trained.”