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Philadelphia Building Collapse; Eyewitness Shares Experience; Live Press Conference from Philadelphia; 12 People Injured; Search & Rescue Underway

Aired June 5, 2013 - 12:30   ET


SARAH HOYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I also ran into a witness here who was about a block and a half away when the building did collapse.

And I'm going to pass the phone to her and she can explain a little bit about how she initially felt extremely scared and thought that this was a terrorist attack.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, hello. Go ahead. Explain what you saw.

SLYMAN: I was walking in front of the bank on 19th and Market, and all of a sudden I heard a loud rumbling and the ground was shaking beneath me. And I was very frightened because at first, the first thought that came to my mind was a terrorist attack. So I head the other way. And then shortly after there were lots of sirens and help on their way.

MALVEAUX: Kate, did you see the building? Did you go towards the building? Have you seen the building?

SLYMAN: I did not see the building collapse. I can see the building now that it had collapsed, but at the time I just went the other direction.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: We're told this is a very ...

SLYMAN: My apartment is close by.

HOLMES: Right. And we're told -- we were talking earlier with Ari Barkin and he was saying that this is a very busy area. What was the reaction of those around you?

SLYMAN: People jumped at first, so I think a lot of people had the same reaction as I did ...

HOLMES: And then?

SLYMAN: ... where they weren't sure what had happened.

MALVEAUX: And, Kate, so you had assumed it was a terrorist attack. You know what? Let's go to Mayor Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, for a press conference. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... this incident first happening at 10:30 this morning, a building collapse, 22nd and Market. This is Commissioner Ayers.

LLOYD AYERS, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA FIRE DEPARTMENT: ... the collapse location was at 22nd and Market Streets. The actual address of this building is 2140 Market Street.

We dispatched companies at 10:43 and at 10:45 first companies arrived. The first companies are the companies that are stationed right up the street from the collapse. They gave a full-collapse four-story property. What we actually have is a four-story property that collapsed onto a two-story property, which is the Salvation Army store where many people attend and get their services there.

What we have is a demolition, an active demolition going on. We are in search-and-rescue. We have recovered a total of 12 people at this time. They have all been transported as Class 3s, which means they have minor injuries to being stable, so that's really good.

We have located two others. Right now what we are doing is we are in the process of extricating both of those people. And we have -- standby. OK, we have transports to Jefferson Hospital, Hahnemann Hospital and HUP. It's the Campbell Construction that is doing the demolition.

At this time there was (inaudible). Right now we have three ...


... full fire alarms that's on location, and they are in the process of working this scene right now.

gain, 35 pieces of apparatus about 125 people. We've had our technical team as well as using other commercial equipment who've come in to assist us, aright now we're continuing that search-and-rescue operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, guys. Hold on. Hold on.

AYERS: Stand by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commissioner, can you tell us about (inaudible)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just hold on, guys. Just hold for a second, please. Just hold on.

Carlton Williams?

CARLTON WILLIAMS, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA LICENSES AND INSPECTION: All right, gentlemen. I'm going to give you a history of the property.

Carlton Williams, commissioner licenses and inspection.

We had a complete demo permit pulled back in February. The contractor's name was Griffin Campbell Construction. He's a Philadelphia-based firm.The owner is Richard Bastiano (ph) out of a New York-based firm.

Obviously this matter is still under investigation and we will provide you with further details as we get them and they come in.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: Commissioner Williams, Commissioner Ayers, thank you very much for those reports.

So I want to try to keep some perspective on this. We've had, as was mentioned, 12 people transported and taken from this scene. Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with them.

As the fire commissioner indicated, this is still an active search- and-rescue operation, so I want to keep focused on the fact that our firefighters are actively engaged in a search-and-rescue operation. It is delicate. This is dangerous work.

We have a significant number of personnel on the scene, trying to see whether or not there are any other individuals possibly in this building. We do not know whether there are or are not, so you don't need to ask me a bunch of questions about that.

We're going to continue this operation until we are certain that anyone who was in the building has been taken out of the building and is recovered.

We've set up a -- and we need your assistance on this. Given where we are at 22nd and Market, there's a perimeter that's been established, and I would greatly appreciate it if all of you would help us with getting information out. The perimeter area is from 18th Street up to the Schuylkill River, east and west, and Ben Franklin Parkway to Walnut Street, north and south.

We need people to stay out of this area so that our personnel can do the very dangerous and delicate work that they are engaged in.

And with that, we'd be glad to try to answer any questions that we can answer. We will not speculate on anything in this particular regard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about the structural history of that building in terms of L&I (ph) inspections and past history?

NUTTER: Carlton?

WILLIAMS: There are no existing violations on the property. It was permitted, and the contractor did have a license.


WILLIAMS: Griffin Campbell Construction. It was an active demolition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, how many workers, how many apartments?

WILLIAMS: We don't know. We're getting this information at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it a mixed commercial and residential?

WILLIAMS: Yes, correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they were working with -- their permits were all valid and up-to-date?

WILLIAMS: Yes, the permits were valid and up-to-date.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should they have been removing a wall next to a facility ...

WILLIAMS: I don't want to speculate at this time. I don't want to speculate. The matter is still under investigation.

NUTTER: This is under investigation. There are other agencies that get involved in that kind of investigation. We're not going to make any speculation.

Again, something happened about 10:45 this morning. I think we're at about 12:30, something to 1:00. There are a lot of things we don't know. We'll give you all the information that we have, but we are not going to speculate in this kind of matter.

There will be other agencies outside of the city government that get involved in these kinds of investigations going forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a search for people who may be there. You have not confirmed there definitely are people there?

NUTTER: As anyone who comes to this intersection knows and I come through here a million times, this is an active Salvation Army thrift store. People come here to get clothes or other items, possibly other services. It was in business. It was active. There are workers and, of course, possibly customers.

So at any point in time, you know, you're not necessarily going to know how many people would be in this store as you wouldn't know how many people are in any store at any particular moment.

We want to make sure that we have done everything we can to get out anyone who was in this store.

But all we can tell you is that 12 people have been transported, and we are looking for anyone else in -- possibly in that structure, in that debris as a result of the wall collapsing on the Salvation Army store.

But we're not going to speculate at this time as to where things may be on that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know exactly where the search is being concentrated right now? Is there a basement area? Can you tell us where that effort is concentrated at the moment?

NUTTER: Commissioner?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commissioner, where is that rescue search being concentrated now?

AYERS: The search is being concentrated in the front and rear of the building, but the search is in the whole area. We're searching the whole area.

It's an active search-and-rescue. And we're going to search until we get to the basement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) people in there? Were there voices? Did the dogs find some evidence? Or how do you know there may be people in there?

AYERS: We have located people inside. They have talked to some of the folks -- to one of the person's that's inside.

We have located them and we're going to continue until we can get them out and get them to hospitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the biggest challenge to get to these people now? What is the biggest challenge?

I understand your special ops team is here to try to do that. And can you explain why?

AYERS: The special ops team, our PA Task Force One, who's located in Philadelphia now, we have their cache. We have heavy rescue.

The biggest challenge is the -- getting people, all of the tons of rubble that's on top of folks, getting them disentangled and then getting them extricated.

We have walls, active movement in the walls. We have transits on them. They have all of their equipment out. The walls are shored and we're going to do what we can to get them out safely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, you say they have talked to you. What did they say?

AYERS: They have not talked to me.

NUTTER: We're not getting into all that. Come on.

Any other questions? Sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) have you shut down subway lines because of vibrations that could cause more collapse?

AYERS: No, we have the "L" that runs straight through with minimum vibration in that location. The trolleys run up here.

We've assessed the situation and we're continuing to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just once recap how the collapse happened? You say one building onto another building. Just kind of walk us through that, please?

AYERS: That's what it appears. We were not here when it collapsed, but we do know there's debris from the Market Street building onto the Salvation Army building.


AYERS: Well, it's the building that Commissioner Williams talked about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that also take down a portion of the building behind it? Is that also involved?

AYERS: No. It's the one building and the Salvation Army building where we're focused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many people do you think you're searching for?

AYERS: I have no idea.

NUTTER: We're not going to speculate on that. Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the condition of the 12 people who have been taken to hospital?

AYERS: They are ...

NUTTER: Technically, Code 3.

AYERS: Class 3.

NUTTER: Class 3, rather. That's stable condition. They're in stable condition. Minor injuries, all been transported. All awake, conscious and talking.

Thank you.


MALVEAUX: Some important new details that we have learned from the Commissioner Lloyd Ayers as well as the mayor, Michael Nutter, there.

First and foremost, that this is still an active search-and-rescue operation that is taking place on the ground. It is described as delicate and dangerous work. One of the things that they are telling us is they really do not know if there are people that are still inside of the Salvation Army, that they're looking both in the front and rear as well as the basement of that building.

But there could be many people. There could be no one. They have no idea. And so they are just going through that rubble to make sure if there are survivors.

HOLMES: And the only confirmation of numbers that he was able to give the officials there was that they have in their words recovered 12 people with minor to stable injuries. They have been taken to area hospitals. And two other people trapped and being extricated as we speak.

Again, confirming that this happened at 10:43. And we heard earlier from local resident Ari Barkin who's across the road when this happened and he said that there was a fire station literally two doors down. And so that explains where we heard from the fire chief there that they got the call at 10:43 and the arrival was at 10:45, literally two minutes later.

We got a lot more to cover here. We're going to take a short break. Be right back.


HOLMES: All right, welcome back. Continuing to cover this building collapse. A building already under demolition. But this went horribly wrong. And what we understand is it fell and the wall fell to the right and on top of a thrift store, a Salvation Army thrift store. We heard from authorities just before the break, 12 people with minor to stable injuries, and two others currently still being excavated or rescue underway for them. And they don't know about any others really.

MALVEAUX: And we want to take you to - this is a Google Earth map here to give you a sense of the neighborhood and the exact location that we're talking about here. Really is in the heart of the city here.

So here it the set up. Now, this is from 2009. This is not from today. This picture of the corner as it was previously taken from 2009. What you see all the way to the right there, the yellow awning, that is the Salvation Army, the thrift store. Next to it, right next door to it, you see a sign that says Hoagie City and, of course, this is the four- story building there. That is the building right next to the thrift store that collapsed onto -- that wall that's adjacent to the thrift store that collapsed onto that one-story building.

If you look over to the left there, you see two other buildings -

HOLMES: There's a side by side, yes.

MALVEAUX: That have the red print across. We're told that that was a bookstore. An adult bookstore and some sort of theater that was also next to it. Now, that did not today exist. That had already been demolished and torn down. What happened today was that four-story building with the Hoagie City sign collapsed on to the thrift store. And you see the pictures, the after pictures right there. It's pretty incredible.

HOLMES: And that was empty. Important to say, that building was empty. It was already under demolition. And it looks like the victims here, the injured, were in or around the thrift store. And our witness, Ari Barkin, earlier saying very busy area, the sidewalk and the like. And somebody who knows the area is our own Don Lemon, on his way to the scene.

Don, you talk us through. You know this spot.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes. Yes, I do. I know this spot. And, you know, when you live in (INAUDIBLE) city of Philadelphia, anywhere near downtown, this is a Salvation Army you go to if you want to give clothing or things that you, you know, may want to give to people who are needy and also people who are needy will come into that store, obviously, and get services. So it's always very busy. And especially at 10:30 in the morning, it would be busy.

And, listen, to -- for the mayor and the fire commissioner to say that they are putting a perimeter around this area from Walnut Street to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, to the Scopa (ph) River, on down to 18th Street, that is a pretty big area to sort of put on lockdown. And the reason they're doing it is because they don't want any vibrations or as few vibrations as possible because they don't want anything obviously falling or collapses on the people who - the two people who are trapped that they know of -- that they know of right now. And also helicopters, news helicopters in the area are being asked not to fly over the area because, again, those vibrations.

Also, I want to tell you something that you probably don't know, most of our viewers don't know, is that Philadelphia, obviously, has, you know, a history of dealing with these sorts of situations. That's the reason that they put that special ops team into place. They did it back in 2003 after 9/11.

But also back in 2000, I'm sure you guys remember, there was a pier that collapsed in the Delaware River. It was Pier 34. People were in that club, Club Heat, and these - and all these people just, you know, just floating into the river. It collapsed into the river and three women died. And so the city realized after that they needed -- they had great equipment, great resources, but they needed a special operations team in place to deal with these sorts of situations. And so that's the team that you see -- that you will see dealing with this particular situation today. And they know exactly what they're doing.

The hospitals that they are talking about are three hospitals in the area that deal with these sorts of situations. You've got Hahnemann Hospital, which is a very respected hospital, Jefferson Hospital, another very respected hospital, and then what we call HUP, which is the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. And that's where some of the victims are being taken.

The numbers, though, aren't quite matching up to what the mayor says and what the hospital, you call the hospital and they'll say we have two at this time, we have four at this time. Or you'll call the fire department and they'll say we have 11 transported or 12 transported. But I'll take the mayor's word. The mayor said 12. According to my sources and according to the people I've spoken to at the fire department and at the hospitals, this is - and, again, these numbers will change, so you shouldn't take these numbers as, you know, the Bible right now because there's - it's still a very active situation. They're saying that four were taken - four victims were taken to Jefferson, two were taken to Hahnemann, and four were taken to the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania. And so that doesn't add up to 11. But again, it's still an active scene and it's still a very chaotic situation.


MALVEAUX: All right, Don, we're going to get back to you. We're going to have to take a quick break. But just a quick recap from the officials on the ground there and recovered at least 12 people who were injured. And the mayor describing them having minor injuries to being - minor to in stable condition, but that there were two others that were still trapped inside of the building. One of those individuals they were actually able to talk to who was there on the site.

Don, we're going to take a quick break. We'll get back to you right on the other end.


MALVEAUX: Following a breaking news story. I want to give you the updated information here. To recap what is happening here out of Philadelphia. You're looking at earlier pictures. This is a building collapse that happened at 10:43 this morning where the - a four-story building that was currently under a demolition project, it was abandoned, had fallen onto a neighboring building. A one-story Salvation Army building where they've recovered at least 12 people who were injured. Minor injuries the mayor says.

HOLMES: Minor. Yes, minor to stable according to the mayor and two other people actively being rescued at the time that that news conference happened. This happened at 10:43 a.m. Eastern. The authorities were there at 10:45. There's a fire station just next door.

I don't know if we can pull up that Google shot we had before. We're going to do that for you. It just gives you a - well, a before-ish and after because that Google image is actually from 2009. And what we'll do is we'll zoom in all the way so that people who know Philly can get an idea of where this is. Right on the edge of downtown, 22nd and Market. The building itself facing on to Market, the building in question, which was under demolition. That's the four-story structure. The thrift shop, Salvation Army, on the right there. Well-known by local people.

The two buildings to the left of the four-story building we're told aren't there anymore. They were not involved. The demolition had begun, but obviously went wrong. The building, or parts of it, fell to the right of your screen there on top of the thrift shop onto a busy sidewalk. Luckily, in many ways, there weren't more people hurt so far.

MALVEAUX: And one of the things that officials are telling us is that they are still looking. There's an active search and rescue mission that is underway. They have no idea how many people are inside of that thrift store now, but there are two individuals that they're still actually pulling from the rubble and they say they're talking to one of those individuals to get a sense of how many people might be still trapped or inside. So this is an active search and rescue.

HOLMES: And we also heard that the authorities, they were asking people around the scene to be quiet so they could listen for the sounds of anyone else who might be in there.

MALVEAUX: All right, we're going to have more of this breaking news story. We're going to take a quick break and then we'll bring you much more at the top of the hour.