Lawyers for Philadelphia collapse victims get access to site

PHILADELPHIA, June 7 Fri Jun 7, 2013 4:49pm EDT

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PHILADELPHIA, June 7 (Reuters) - Rubble strewn around the site of a deadly building collapse this week cannot be removed for two days while attorneys for survivors collect evidence for their lawsuits, a Philadelphia judge ruled on Friday.

As survivors of the collapse recovered in the hospital and at home, attorneys began filing lawsuits against the owner of a building under demolition that collapsed onto a Salvation Army Thrift Store in downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday. The demolition company is also named in the lawsuits over the collapse, in which six people died and 14 were injured.

Among those suing is Nadine White, 54, a mother of three and a clerk working at the thrift store when chunks of concrete came raining down on her, burying her in the rubble, her lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi said in court papers.

"Mrs. White was trapped in a nightmare when the collapse occurred," Mongeluzzi said in a statement.

A second lawsuit was filed by Linda Bell, 50, also a mother of three, who was shopping in the store when the collapse occurred. She was buried under the rubble for about an hour before being rescued, her lawyer Joseph Marrone said.

The collapse occurred when the store was filled with shoppers and staff. White and Bell were among 13 survivors who suffered minor injuries and were rescued by firefighter crews looking for survivors.

A 14th survivor, Myra Plekan, 61, remained in critical condition, according to a spokesman for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

On Friday, Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler granted requests by lawyers for White and Bell for access to the site to inspect and photograph it and ordered that once the site is deemed safe, all remaining debris be left in place for approximately two days. She also ordered that the lawyers be told where debris already removed has been taken.

In addition, the judge ordered the building owners, Richard Basciano, and the STB Investments Corp., and the demolition company, Griffin T. Campbell, to preserve documents about the demolition.

Reuters' efforts to reach Basciano, STB Investments Corp., nor Griffin T. Campbell for comment were not immediately successful.

Authorities said the building that was being demolished had housed an X-rated book and video store. (Additional reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and David Gregorio)

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