PHILADELPHIA (TheBlaze/AP) — A four-story building being demolished on the edge of downtown collapsed with a thunderous boom Wednesday, raining bricks down on a thrift store, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said.
Rescue crews are still trying to extricate one person who was trapped, and 13 people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, Ayers added.
The collapse involved a building that once housed a first-floor sandwich shop. It collapsed, sending debris onto a Salvation Army corner thrift store next door. The two are adjacent to an adult bookstore and theater that had been taken down earlier.
Witnesses said they heard a loud rumbling sound immediately before the collapse.
“I was parked on the 21st just heading to Market Street, next thing you know it felt like an earthquake, ” Bernie Ditomo, a truck driver, told NBC10. “I said what the hell is going on. My truck is totaled. I am a little dusty and dirty, but I’m alright. I am one of the lucky ones.”
Corey Vey, who works nearby, added: “I’ve never encountered anything like this before anytime in my life and I don’t want to see it again.”
Roofers Patrick Glynn and Anthony Soli were working atop a nearby building when they heard what sounded like two loud bangs or explosions. They immediately ran down the scaffolding to look for victims, and helped pull out two women and a man.
Glynn said he had been watching workers take down the building next to the Salvation Army building over the past few weeks, and said he suspected a collapse was inevitable because of the methods the workers were using to tear it down.
“For weeks they’ve been standing on the edge, knocking bricks off,” he said. “You could just see it was ready to go at any time. I knew it was going to happen.”
Carlton Williams of the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections said there were no existing violations on the building and the demolition company had proper permits for the work they were doing.
The city issued a demolition permit for the four-story structure on Feb. 1. Online records list the contractor as Plato Marinakos Jr., an architect. He told The Associated Press that Campbell Construction was handling the demolition. A message was left at a listing for Campbell Construction in Philadelphia.
Rescuers could be seen using buckets and their bare hands to move bricks and rubble to search for anyone who might be trapped.
High school student Jordan McLaughlan said he saw several people on the ground being given oxygen by rescuers after the collapse.
“It was hard to breathe, there was a lot of dust everywhere,” McLaughlan said.
The accident happened at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday on the western edge of downtown, between the city’s business district and its main train station.
Maj. John Cranford of The Salvation Army in Philadelphia said officials were coordinating with the police and fire department and sent their own disaster response team to the site to serve survivors and first responders.
“Our No. 1 concern is for the safety of our customers and the employees who were involved,” he said. “We ask for the public to pray for those involved.”
The Associated Press has footage of the aftermath:
And NBC10 Philadelphia has a livestream of the latest:
This is a breaking news story. Updates will be added.