A retired colonel with The Salvation Army told a Philadelphia jury Wednesday he would have closed a company thrift store, or allowed store management to, had he known a neighboring demolition project posed the kind of public safety threat that would later kill six people and injure 13 more.
“Without hesitation,” said Timothy Raines, who was second-in-command for the organization’s Eastern Territory, during the third week of the civil trial tied to the deadly June 2013 collapse in Center City.
But he didn’t.
On the second day of his testimony, Raines said he did not make day-to-day decisions regarding the ongoing demolition project and the thrift store, but was occasionally briefed on pieces of that process, including a conference call between the organization and the building’s owner and some emails. He said nothing that was relayed to him made him think demolition of the four-story building at 22nd and Market was dangerous.
“There was nothing,” said Raines.
On June 5, 2013, an unsupported wall pancaked onto and crushed the thrift store. One woman lost both of her legs after being trapped in the rubble for more than 12 hours.
Store employees have testified that the store shook during the demolition project, but they never thought it portended danger.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys countered that Raines knew “nothing” because he didn’t communicate with his staff. That included three men who worked directly with STB Investment Corporation and Richard Basciano, who was tearing down the property to clear the way for his “dream” of a gateway development with a pair of sparkling towers.
Alistair Fraser, property coordinator with the Salvation Army, will continue his testimony Thursday. He is one of the more than 200 witnesses who could take the stand during what’s expected to be a months-long trial. It could last through mid-December, according to court documents.
If the defendants are found liable, damages to victims and the families of those killed could be in the millions.