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1 Dead, 2 Injured In Center City Fire Escape Collapse

By Syma Chowdhry, Suzanne Monaghan, Dan Wing, Elizabeth Hur

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One person was killed and two others were injured when a fire escape landing at an apartment building in Center City collapsed Sunday.

It happened shortly after midnight on Saturday during a birthday party at the John C. Bell apartment building in the 200 block of South 22nd Street, a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square.

Police say three people were  smoking on the fourth floor fire escape when it gave way and sent them plummeting about 40 feet to the ground.

Twenty-two-year-old Albert Suh suffered severe head and neck injuries in the fall.  He died a few hours later at Hahnemann Hospital.

Two others were also injured in the collapse.

"There were people screaming and I got on the phone and called 911," one neighbor said.

It is unknown at this time what the victims were doing in the time before the collapse. Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison says that's one of many details officials are hoping to learn, as well as when the last time the escape was inspected:

"The owner is responsible to keep the fire escapes up to code and well maintained. So that will be something that we will find out as a result of the investigation."

While investigators are trying to determine what caused the collapse, sources tell CBS3 Eyewitness News a preliminary investigation shows the bolts on the fire escape appear to have rusted and dislodged from the brick wall, and that this does not appear to be criminal.

Officials say the building's owner is not currently facing any charges, and that their main concern right now is getting a new fire escape route in place for people still living in the building. CBS3 reached out to the owner, and have not yet heard back from them.

The building is more than a hundred years old and had been converted into an apartment building in 1944. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. How well the building was maintained will be determined in the investigation.

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