Philadelphia Building Collapse Investigated By Grand Jury

The Philadelphia building collapse is under investigation by a grand jury to determine if anyone, other than a heavy equipment operator, will face charges in the case.

The building, which was being torn down, had a four-story wall collapse onto an adjacent Salvation Army thrift store last Wednesday. The incident killed six people and injured 13.

The grand jury investigation was announced by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams on Monday. It came after the operator, Sean Benschop, was arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter and other counts.

Williams explained that he would convene the grand jury on Monday, adding that the panel will investigate all aspects of the collapse, including city agencies and policies. The purpose will be “to determine if anyone in addition to Mr. Benschop should be held criminally responsible.”

Benschop was arrested on Saturday after he turned himself in to police. Along with manslaughter, the 42-year-old was charged with 13 counts of reckless endangerment, one count of risking a catastrophe, and one count of causing a catastrophe.

The arrest was made after authorities received a toxicology report showing Benschop, who was operating a crane on the day of the Philadelphia building collapse, was under the influence of a controlled substance that day. Other evidence suggested that the man was operating the crane incorrectly.

Over the weekend, the operator’s attorney, Daine Grey, stated that Benschop “is being made a scapegoat” in the building collapse. Grey added:

“The victims here aren’t just those who died and their families. My client is a victim as well. He’s currently being looked at as the cause of everybody’s pain, but that just isn’t the case.”

Williams added on Monday of the grand jury formation, “I know Philadelphians demand action. I heard their voices loud and clear. We want Philadelphians to be patient as we gather all the evidence.”

City Council was also planning on announcing on Monday the formation of a special committee. The group will review the procedures and regulations surrounding licenses and permits, construction and demolition, the certification of workers, building maintenance, and other issues.