Thirteen hours after a building collapsed in Center City, Pennsylvania, a woman was pulled alive from the rubble by rescue workers. The collapse of the building killed six and injured more than 12 others.
The collapse of the building occurred on 2340 Market Street at approximately 10:40 a.m. Wednesday. A four-story building came down on top of of a two-story building where a Salvation Army Thrift Store was located.
Philadelphia police reports earlier indicated that the cause of the collapse may have been due to an industrial accident, as construction crews worked on the nearby four-story building which toppled on top of the Salvation Army Thrift Store.
During the day, one woman was found dead under the rubble and 13 people suffering from various injuries were rescued. According to Mayor Nutter, the deceased woman was 35-years-old.
Sources have stated that the woman was a cashier who was employed by the thrift store. Wednesday was her first day on the job.
“I ask all Philadelphians and all who care to keep that Philadelphia woman and her family in your prayers,” Nutter said in a statement.
Crews continued their rescue efforts throughout the rest of the day. They utilized search dogs to locate anyone else who might still be alive, trapped beneath the rubble of the collapsed building.
On Wednesday night, the rescue crews found five more people dead, a man and four women, beneath the rubble. Reportedly, officials stated that all of the six who died were inside the thrift store at the time the four-story building collapsed upon it.
According to Darby Borough Police Chief Robert Smythe, one of the victims was 68-year-old Borbor Davis of the Darby Boro. Born in Liberia, West Africa, Davis worked at the thrift store and he had spoken to his wife on the phone at 10:30 a.m., a mere 15 minutes before the building collapsed.
The woman who was pulled alive from the wreckage of the thrift store was Myra Plekam, 61. She was trapped underneath the ruins of the building, and she reached out and grabbed the hand of a nearby firefighter. She was rescued around 11:30 p.m. and was the 10th. person rescued by the crews.
Myra was then transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently listed in critical condition.
According to Michael Resnick of the Philadelphia Police Department, “She was talking to the firefighters as they were recovering her,”
Mayor Nutter said the search is on-going. Rescue efforts will continue until crews are absolutely certain there is no one else trapped underneath the rubble.
In a late afternoon news conference, Fire Commissioner Ayers said that rescuers were focusing their search on a few areas that the search dogs were hovering over.
However, the dogs might be exhibiting that behavior because those particular areas are where earlier rescues occurred. That, some of the rescuers feel, might be what the dogs are picking up on.
Ayers stated that there were 125 people working to locate survivors and they were using 35 different pieces of equipment in the search.
Corey Vey who works nearby, stated: “There are firemen, police, construction guys digging out, because I believe people are down there. It’s crazy right now.”
The rescued victims numbered at 14. They were transported to local hospitals, and most of the injuries were reportedly minor. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania treated six of the 14 victims.
A spokeswoman from the hospital said Plekam is in critical condition, but five of the other victims are stable. Two have been released while the other four, including Plekam, will remain at the hospital until their conditions improve.
Rescue crews brought in at least two pieces of heavy machinery to help move debris and aid their efforts to discover if there are any more people still trapped, alive, underneath the rubble of the collapsed thrift store.
“I’ve never encountered anything like this before anytime in my life, and I don’t want to see it again,” said Vey. He had been headed down 22nd Street right before Market and witnessed the building come down.
“I feel really lucky. That brick landed in my passenger seat. Lucky for the rainguard on my window that saved me from getting hit.”
Taking part in the rescue efforts were ordinary people, as well. For instance, roofers from a nearby building hustled over after the collapse and started pulling people out of the basement.
“They were pretty banged up,” one of the roofers said.
Officials from OHSA stated that they were aware of the collapse that occurred, and that they would be launching an investigation into the cause of the collapse. The Department of Labor also plans to conduct an investigation.
Written by: Douglas Cobb