Demolition Worker Killed In Philadelphia Brewerytown Building Collapse

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A demolition worker was killed following a building collapse of a row home in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia on Monday morning. The fire department was called out to the 2600 block of Jefferson Street for a building collapse around 10:50 a.m. for reports of two people trapped. Demolition crews from Gama wrecking were working on the building when it came down.
Police say two contractors were working on the building when the rear of the property collapsed, trapping them. One person was able to escape while the other, a 60-year-old man, was trapped under the rubble. He was pronounced dead shortly after 11 a.m.The family identified the victim as 59-year-old Harvey Lee Figgs. His family had just celebrated his birthday on Sunday.
Jomo Day saw the row home fall and rushed to help a man trapped under the debris. “I ran over to try to help him there but it was too late,” said Day. Figgs was in the back of the building, taking it apart brick-by-brick. Crews say that’s procedure when dealing with a row home like this that’s attached to other homes, but the floor beneath Figgs suddenly fell and the building collapsed on top of him. “Real good guy, real good guy, give you the shirt off his back,” said Wayne Johnson. “It’s crazy, you’re here today, gone tomorrow.” “He was actually in a very difficult spot inside the building,” Thiel said. Figgs was put onto a stretcher, but died at the scene.
“I worked with this guy for years,” Walter Johnson, a friend of Figgs, told NBC10. “He was a damn good worker. Damn good worker. Ran his own crews and everything. One of the best.”
Authorities say a second crew member was inside at the home but able to escape and did not need any medical treatment. Investigators are now working to determine what lead up to the collapse.
“Buildings are complex structures, so it’s going to take some time to find exactly what the cause was,” said Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Adam Thiel. Licenses and Inspections says the contractor did have a permit to demolish the structure, but some people are questioning how another deadly building collapse could happen, especially when Tuesday is five years since six people lost their lives in the Salvation Army building collapse on Market Street.
One of the demolition workers obtained an attorney who says it’s difficult to know what went wrong until investigators release more information, but he believes Figg’s death was likely preventable. “I’m literally sickened to my stomach to see another collapse here in the city. It’s unbelievable to me,” said attorney Steve Wrigrizer. “This kind of thing could only happen if there is a flaw in the engineering survey that has to take place or a failure to execute the demolition plan properly.”
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City property records listed the building as structurally compromised and the building had been deemed unsafe by L&I in May of 2017. A demolition permit wasn’t issued until February. The permit included a requirement that all demolition work be done by “hand method only” without cranes or backhoes.
Gama Wrecking, the demolition company handling the property, has dealt with other issues in the past.
In April, 2014, two Gama workers were injured when they were hit by falling debris at a property in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia. During that incident, L&I determined Gama Wrecking, which is a licensed contractor in the city, was not at fault.
L&I continues to investigate the cause of Monday’s collapse.

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