Suspect in deadly building collapse denied bail
By Susan Candiotti and Greg Botelho, CNN
(CNN) — The crane operator facing charges over a deadly building collapse was denied bail Sunday.
A Philadelphia judge refused to allow Sean Benschop, 42, to leave jail.
He is charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one count of “risking a catastrophe,” District Attorney spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson told CNN.
Wednesday’s building collapse in downtown Philadelphia left six dead and 13 people injured.
Benschop, who maintains his innocence, turned himself in Saturday.
“My client is being made the scapegoat in this situation,” said Daine Grey, Benschop’s attorney.
“The victims here aren’t just those who died and their families. My client is a victim as well. He’s currently being looked at as the cause of everybody’s pain, but that just isn’t the case.”
Grey told reporters Saturday that while his client feels “extremely sympathetic and remorseful,” he is not guilty.
“This was an accident, but Mr. Benschop was not responsible,” Grey said, in remarks captured by CNN affiliate WPVI. “And we believe that, in time, the facts will show that he is not responsible.”
Benschop had marijuana and pain medication in his blood after the collapse, a law enforcement source told CNN.
Pennsylvania court records indicate Benschop, who also went by the alias Kary Roberts, has been arrested multiple times in the past two decades. Many of the related charges — related to alleged firearms violations and theft — were withdrawn, dismissed or resulted in not guilty verdicts, though he was found guilty in the mid-1990s on drug charges.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter blamed Benschop’s “reckless and irresponsible behavior” for the building collapse and said Saturday he hopes that Benschop faces “the harshest level of charges … and he is punished accordingly.”
“Justice will only be served if Sean Benschop receives a sentence that buries him in a jailhouse forever, just like his victims were buried on Wednesday,” Nutter said.
Nutter is pressing for answers from two property owners who hired Benschop to operate heavy machinery, saying that, along with Benschop, they “bear the ultimate and sole responsibility for this tragedy.”
Benschop allegedly was working a crane to tear down a vacant building in downtown Philadelphia when a four-story wall collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift store, causing an ominous rumble followed by panic on the streets.
Afterward, searchers climbed over shards of wood, concrete and rebar looking for survivors, such as a 61-year-old woman pulled alive from the rubble early Thursday.
The first lawsuit against him was filed that same day, by attorneys for a 54-year-old woman pulled from the rubble by a firefighter.