Sean Benschop, Courtesy: CBS3 Philly
Philadelphia-- 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.
Police have raided Benschop's home but have not found him, Gillison added. Benschop did not return phone messages left at numbers listed in his name, though he told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday that he couldn't comment because of the investigation.
Among those killed was a woman who was working her first day at the store. Thirteen people were hurt.
Video shot of the scene shortly before the fatal collapse show bricks falling onto a sidewalk, which remained open to pedestrians, as a worker used heavy equipment to take out a front wall.
Some accusations of responsibility were lobbed at demolition contractor Griffin Campbell.
Campbell violated several federal safety regulations, while building owner Richard Basciano should have picked a more qualified and competent contractor to do the work, said Robert Mongeluzzi, another of White's attorneys.
"This is the most egregious construction accident I think I've ever been involved in," said Mongeluzzi, who has represented hundreds of plaintiffs in construction accidents and is considered a top lawyer in the field.
The lawyers received permission Friday from a judge to bring in experts to videotape and photograph the continuing demolition work by the city from a safe distance. Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler ruled that once the site is deemed safe, experts for all parties can inspect the remaining debris.
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