Charges Expected Against Excavator's Operator In Collapse Case - New York News

Charges Expected Against Excavator's Operator In Collapse Case

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PHILADELPHIA -

Charges are expected to be filed in the deadly Center City building collapse that killed six people and injured 14 more.

Detectives executed a search warrant Friday afternoon at the home of 42-year-old Sean Benschop.

He was operating a huge excavator Wednesday morning at a Market Street demolition site just seconds before tragedy struck, causing a four-story building to collapse onto a Salvation Army Thrift Store next door, along 22nd Street.

Sources say Benschop told investigators he was using codeine at the time, and a drug screen at the hospital turned up traces of marijuana, A full drug test is due back Monday.

No charges have been filed against him yet.

Court records show Benschop has a history of arrests

Meanwhile, the entire city mourns the six lives lost when the four-story structure collapsed. This while survivors work to recover and make sense of the ordeal.

Multiple investigations are under way into just what went wrong.

One civil lawsuit has been filed, and a judge on Friday granted a motion by civil attorneys representing victims of the collapse to preserve the site where the tragedy occurred so they can video tape and photograph evidence for possible legal action.

They'll get a look at the scene Saturday morning to begin piecing together their cases for the innocent victims who were trapped in the rubble.

The excavator and a steel beam were seized by investigators on Thursday.

Friday's search warrant was executed at Benschop's home around 4:30 p.m. Detectives removed computers and paperwork, but the demolition worker himself has not been found.

Law enforcement sources say Benschop could face as many as six charges, including involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe.

No one answered the door at Benschop's home earlier in the day.

"This is a prime case where I think everyone needs to have answers to a lot of questions," said Fortunate Perri Jr., a former prosecutor.

As for the possibility of drugs being involved, Mayor Michael Nutter said during a Friday afternoon news conference, "If that's a factor here, that certainly takes things in a very different direction."

Investigators also tell FOX 29 that Benschop had a cast on his arm while he was operating the heavy equipment. Legal experts say all of this raises some issues.

"It raises questions, it raise the level of culpability. It raises the level of recklessness," Perri said. "And when you do that, you start moving in the direction of involuntary manslaughter, risking a catastrophe, criminal charges."

Perri also believes this case could be headed for a grand jury, where witnesses and victims could testify and evidence could be presented. The grand jury could decide if criminal charges are warranted against the property owners, the demolition company or even city officials.

"That's the best way because it takes all the subjectivity out of play. You have objective minds reviewing carefully the evidence presented in the case. And, you know, the chips will fall where they'll fall," Perri said.

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