Subcontractor: I should’ve walked away before wall collapse

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A demolition subcontractor told jurors Thursday that he warned the contractor on trial for the 2013 building collapse that killed six people that his plan to take down a towering brick wall was dangerous.

Sean Benschop testified against contractor Griffin Campbell after pleading guilty in the six deaths, which occurred when the wall collapsed onto an adjacent thrift store. Campbell had refused to let him rent taller equipment so workers could take the four-story, unsupported wall down by hand, Benschop said.

“When I saw the building like that, I should have walked away,” Benschop testified. “I had my family to feed and I had bills to pay.”

Benschop was operating the machinery even though he smoked marijuana daily for medical purposes and had also taken the painkiller Percocet that day for an injury. He faces a maximum of 10 to 20 years in prison for six counts of involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

Campbell has rejected a similar plea in the deaths, which occurred inside a Salvation Army thrift store in downtown Philadelphia that was attached to three buildings he had been hired to raze.

Benschop said he was using heavy equipment nearby when the wall crashed onto the thrift shop. One survivor who testified Thursday lost both legs after spending 13 hours in the rubble.

Campbell is charged with third-degree murder, causing a catastrophe and other crimes. His lawyer has called him a scapegoat for building owner Richard Basciano, project architect Plato Marinakos and others. Basciano had wanted the wall down quickly so he could redevelop the block. The Salvation Army had remained open after refusing to sell the corner property.

Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case Friday. Campbell is expected to testify next week.

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