Collapse victim who lost legs: 'How am I supposed to live now?'

Posted: June 05, 2014

MARIYA PLEKAN remembers each second of the pain she felt as the minutes and then hours - 13 in all - dragged by while she lay helpless, trapped under beams, bricks and other debris, on that fateful June day last year.

For 364 days - since a demolition job at 22nd and Market streets in Center City sent a wall tumbling onto the Salvation Army thrift shop where Plekan was shopping for clothes June 5, 2013, killing six people and injuring her and 12 others - the 53-year-old woman has suffered.

"I will never forget that moment, what happened with me. I will remember every moment when I was in there, how I [waited for] somebody [to] find me," Plekan, 53, who came here from Ukraine in 2002, recounted through an interpreter last night at St. Ignatius Nursing & Rehab Center, where she now lives.

"I remember every second of my pain. . . . I remember every moment of that night, and I think I will remember forever that night."

Plekan was the last survivor pulled from the debris on the night of the collapse.

Both of her legs were amputated as a result of her injuries, and she has spent the last year in hospitals and rehab centers, cared for by nurses and by her son Andrii, 26, and daughter Nataliia, 25. Her children, who still live in Ukraine, have alternated visiting her on visas for six months at a time since the tragedy, Plekan said last night.

Attorney Andy Stern of Kline & Specter, who filed a lawsuit in August against several parties involved with the collapse on behalf of Plekan, said his firm has been working with an immigration lawyer to secure permanent residency in the United States for both children.

"I wish my kids can be with me. That's all [that] I stay strong for, and I wish [they could be here], because they only will take care of me," Plekan said last night, pausing between words to take sharp, labored breaths. "I need them now like never before."

Tears rolled down her cheeks and anguish jagged across her face as she recounted the "most scary moments" of her life, those she spent trapped, wondering if she would die in the rubble.

"I never felt so [scared], and I was thinking about my kids, all the time about my kids, and praying to God that somebody would hear and find [me]," Plekan cried.

Stern said Plekan's medical bills are in the millions of dollars. Her lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Contractor Griffin Campbell and Sean Benschop, an excavator operator at the collapse site, face murder and conspiracy charges in the collapse. Richard Basciano, the owner of the property being demolished that day, has not been criminally charged.

Last night, Plekan had a message for those who allegedly caused the collapse that changed her life forever.

"How am I supposed to live now?" Plekan asked. "It changed my life now, and not just mine, my kids' life. And why did it happen, why did I deserve this?"


On Twitter: @morganzalot

Blog: Philly Confidential.com

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