Bail set at $1.55M for building collapse excavator operator

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

A judge at a preliminary hearing Wednesday set bail at $1.55 million for Sean Benschop, 42, an excavator operator who was working on a demolition site near 22nd and Market streets June 5 when a wall collapsed into an adjacent Salvation Army Thrift Store, killing six people.

Prosecutors reportedly argued Benschop is a flight risk.

Benschop was previously being held without bail after authorities said he was found to be under the influence of codeine and marijuana as he operated the machinery at the site.

He was arrested June 8 and charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of risking a catastrophe.

Local 98 business manager John Dougherty, who has been a vocal critic of the city’s handling of the disaster, wrote in a Facebook post responding to the hearing that, in his opinion, not enough has been done since the collapse three weeks ago.

“I seriously question why no one else has been charged yet,” he wrote.

“How about the expediter who owed the city back taxes, yet was able to pull the permit for the fateful demo? How about the ex-con contractor who somehow continued to win city contracts? How about the 8 to 10 construction workers who fled the scene as the bricks tumbled down?”

Dougherty went on to criticize Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration for its alleged lack of transparency, calling it an “all-too-familiar pattern” and briefly rehashing Nutter’s handling of local labor contracts and requests for public documents.

“It’s no surprise that since the outset of his second disastrous term as mayor, he’s been out of town 4 out of every 10 days,” Dougherty wrote.

“He may think he can peddle his ‘America’s Mayor’ image elsewhere, but not here at home. We know the truth. And the truth is that Mike Nutter’s a flat-out fraud.”

Benschop’s hearing Wednesday was continued and is set to resume Sept. 17.


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