Sean Benschop: Crane operator formally charged in building collapse

building collapse crane operator
Sean Benschop, 42. (Credit: Philadelphia Police Department).

Philadelphia police have released a headshot of a crane operator who was last Wednesday demolishing a four-story building near 22nd and Market streets when a wall fell, leading to the building collapse of an adjacent Salvation Army thrift store that killed six people and injured 13 more.

Sean Benschop, 42, of the 4900 block of North 7th Street in Olney, was allegedly under the influence of codeine and marijuana while he was operating the heavy machinery.

He was treated and released for injuries suffered in the collapse.

“It is because of [Benschop's] reckless and irresponsible behavior that six people died and thirteen people were hurt and buried under debris and bricks,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement on Benschop’s arrest.

“Our hearts are still hurting over the loss of those six good people, working or shopping at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, trying to ‘do good’. We continue to pray for the physical and mental recovery of the thirteen survivors.

“It is my hope that the harshest level of charges are brought against Sean Benschop 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.”

“Let us keep all the families affected by this horrific event in our thoughts and prayers, and never forget what happened that day.”

Benschop turned himself in Saturday to the Philadelphia police Central Detective Division and was arraigned early Sunday morning.

He is charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of risking a catastrophe.

Benschop’s bail was set at 10 percent of $150,000.

He is next due in court June 26 for a preliminary hearing.

Benschop in 1995 served jail time after being convicted of two counts each of manufacturing, delivering or possessing narcotics with the intent to manufacture or deliver and with knowing and intentionally possessing a controlled substance, according to court documents.

Mayor Michael Nutter said at a new conference Friday – during which he announced a litany of improvements the city will be making with regards to standards and policies governing the demolition process – that he will be seeking a Philadelphia Code amendment to require private contractors to conduct background checks of employees and to subject them to random drug testing.


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