Woman, 61, Found Alive in Philly Rubble

Demolition contractor pleaded guilty to fake auto accident

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 6, 2013 4:07 AM CDT | Updated Jun 6, 2013 5:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – Rescue work is continuing at the site of a collapsed Philadelphia building, and another person has been saved. Twelve hours after the collapse, rescuers pulled Myra Plekam, 61, from the debris. She was awake and talking; now she's in the hospital in critical condition, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Meanwhile, more background details are emerging: The contractor behind the demolition had a criminal record, having pleaded guilty to a fake insurance claim in 2009.

Griffin Campbell claimed to have been a passenger in a car accident in 2005; he got a payout of more than $22,000, the Inquirer reports. He was also arrested for aggravated assault in 2007, but was found not guilty. Campbell filed for bankruptcy this year with $221,000 in liabilities. In other news:

  • The company that owns the building, STB Investments Corp., is run by Richard Basciano, who holds "many seedy properties," the Inquirer notes, and has been called "the undisputed king of Times Square porn."
  • No official cause has yet emerged for the collapse, but locals said something seemed fishy about the demolition: Workers didn't have hard hats, and they were working in the dark, equipped with sledgehammers and flashlights. According to nearby carpenters, the wall that collapsed lacked adequate bracing, the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
  • The property in question, however, had "no existing violations," says an official. "The permits were valid and up to date."

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, center, and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, right, announce that the death toll from the collapsed building is now up to 6 people.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, center, and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, right, announce that the death toll from the collapsed building is now up to 6 people.   (AP Photo/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Charles Fox)
A dust cloud rises as people run from the scene of a building collapse on the edge of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.
A dust cloud rises as people run from the scene of a building collapse on the edge of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jordan McLaughlin)
Emergency personnel respond to a building collapse on the edge of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.
Emergency personnel respond to a building collapse on the edge of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jordan McLaughlin)
Emergency personnel and others rescue a man from the rubble of a building collapse on the edge of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.
Emergency personnel and others rescue a man from the rubble of a building collapse on the edge of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jordan McLaughlin)
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