Family claims wall collapse caused a seventh death

A building undergoing demolition at 22d and Market Streets collapsed June 5, toppling onto an adjacent thrift store and killing six people. Wagenhoffer, the city inspector assigned to the site, committed suicide the following week.
A building undergoing demolition at 22d and Market Streets collapsed June 5, toppling onto an adjacent thrift store and killing six people. Wagenhoffer, the city inspector assigned to the site, committed suicide the following week. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 24, 2014

The family of Danny C. Johnson, 59, a truck driver and father of five who lived for 23 days after he was pulled out of the rubble of last year's Salvation Army thrift store wall collapse, filed a wrongful-death suit Tuesday against the charitable organization and others.

The suit, filed in Common Pleas Court by the firm Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, counts Johnson as the seventh fatality associated with the June 5, 2013, Market Street collapse that killed six people at the site and left 14 injured.

Johnson, who lived in West Philadelphia, was in the thrift store when an unsupported four-story brick wall of an adjoining building being demolished collapsed on top of the store, leveling it.

His legs were crushed under the rubble and he suffered a minor heart attack, Jeffrey Goodman, the lawyer for Johnson's estate, said Tuesday.

Johnson could not breathe properly before being pulled out of the building wreckage about an hour after the collapse, Goodman added. The suit claims Johnson's "previous heart- and asthma-related issues were exacerbated" by the injuries he suffered that day.

Johnson spent nine days at Hahnemann University Hospital before being sent home in a wheelchair, Goodman said. He returned to Hahnemann on June 26 and died two days later.

Johnson, like some of the other victims, frequented the Center City store on Wednesdays, when it had sales, Goodman said.

In addition to the Salvation Army, the estate is suing STB Investment Corp., which owned the building being demolished; Richard Basciano, STB's principal owner; demolition contractor Sean Benschop; and architect Plato Marinakos.

Peter Greiner of Sprague & Sprague, the law firm that represents STB and Basciano, said Tuesday he had not yet seen the suit and declined to comment.

John J. Snyder, who represents the Salvation Army, also said he had not received a copy of the suit and could not comment on it. He said he disagreed with allegations in other wrongful-death suits in the collapse.

"The position we've taken all along is that the Salvation Army has done nothing wrong," he said.

Although Johnson died within a month, the complaint was not filed until a year later because his attorneys "wanted to make certain" that his death was a direct result of the building collapse, Goodman said.

"Medical records and a forensic pathologist have confirmed his death was caused by those injuries in this preventable tragedy," Goodman said.


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

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