CBSN

Philly Building Collapse Kills Two

Philadelphia building collapse, July 24, 2000
AP
Part of a 57-year-old variety store under renovation collapsed Monday morning in South Philadelphia, killing the store's co-owner and a construction worker and injuring a second worker, fire officials said.

The body of Adolph Stahl was taken out of the building just after 1 p.m., more than four hours after the collapse. Fire officials said Stahl most likely died instantly.

The body of a construction worker, who wasn't immediately identified by officials on the scene, was found in the rubble just over an hour later.

Earlier, a 59-year-old construction worker who had been trapped inside was taken out on a stretcher by firefighters. He was in Hahnemann University Hospital in fair condition with lacerations and bruises on his legs.

Stahl's wife and partner, Faith Stahl, was able to walk out of the building on her own.

"They were going to retire," said the Stahls' daughter, Cecelia Driscoll, crying. She said renovations were being made to the store, Aunt Louise's Variety Store.

Deputy Fire Chief Tom Garrity said five people were in the building just before a section of the second floor collapsed before 9 a.m. The fifth person had walked out right before the collapse, he said.

A crane was brought in to stabilize the building's roof and residents in adjacent buildings were evacuated.

"There were reports of a little shifting of the structure, which isn't unusual in this kind of situation," Garrity said.

Neighbors and police said renovations were being done on the three-story brick rowhouse, which housed an apartment on the upper floors where the Stahls lived.

Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Edward McLaughlin said the renovation work was being done by the Vaccone Co. of South Philadelphia. The crew had an interior demolition permit, the only permit they were required to have.

Mary Hempsey, who frequents the store several times a week, was on her way to get a pretzel at the store Monday morning just after the collapse happened. She said renovations had been in progress at the building for at least a month.

"It looked like smoke, but it was dust coming out of the windows," she said.

Neighbor Marie Brennan said the store was a fixture in the neighborhood. The Stahls were planning to close most of the store and sell only a few items, such as lottery tickets, from a window, Brennan said.

"They were talking about how great their lives were going to be," Brennan said.

About 10 Red Cross workers were at the scene as of midday, distributing blankets, food, drink, and other supplies to rescue workers and displaced residents.

Red Cross spokeswoman Shelley McCaffrey said Faith Stahl and several relatives were waiting at the scene for news from rescuers.

"She's holding herself together very well, but she's very emotional," McCaffrey said.

By Jen Lin-Liu