Slain woman’s parents push Pa. to revoke license of architect in Philly building collapse

John Bryan (center) and his wife Nancy Winkler (left) lost their daughter, Anne, in the Salvation Army building collapse that killed six people in 2013. They are joined by their lawyer, Robert Mongeluzzi.

John Bryan (center) and his wife Nancy Winkler (left) lost their daughter, Anne, in the Salvation Army building collapse that killed six people in 2013. They are joined by their lawyer, Robert Mongeluzzi. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

It’s been nearly a year since the civil trial over a deadly building collapse in Center City Philadelphia ended with a historic settlement for victims and their families. But the parents of one victim are still fighting for justice.

Jay Bryan, the father of Anne Bryan, filed a complaint with the state in 2015 seeking to revoke the architecture license of Plato Marinakos, one of the defendants a jury found liable last year.

Marinakos was hired to be the owner’s representative on a demolition project spanning a series of buildings along Market Street. It was his job to keep tabs on the work and report back to the properties’ owner, the late Richard Basciano, who was also found liable.

During a press conference Monday, Bryan and his wife, Nancy Winkler, said they still haven’t heard a word from the state architecture license board about their complaint against Marinakos, who continues to work.

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“Their mission is to protect public safety, and this was a colossal failure to protect public safety by a licensed architect who was intimately involved with the project from beginning to end,” said Bryan inside the law firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky.

Sitting beside them, Robert Mongeluzzi, Bryan’s lawyer, said that’s unacceptable.

“The legal profession polices itself. And the number of lawyers who have lost their licenses is significant. Here, one frustration is the opaqueness of the whole process and the failure of it to be transparent,” said Mongeluzzi, the lead attorney in the civil trial.

Plato A. Marinakos, Jr.
Plato A. Marinakos, Jr. (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

In a statement, a spokeswoman with the Pennsylvania Department of State said the agency could “neither confirm nor deny whether any specific licensee is under investigation.”

“We often become aware of problems through media reports and from local law enforcement. As soon as we become aware of a potential violation, we begin a vigorous process of investigation and, if necessary, initiate disciplinary action,” she said.

Neither Marinakos nor his attorney immediately returned a request for comment.

Marinakos was also tasked with recommending a demolition contractor for the project. He picked the now-convicted Griffin Campbell, a former food truck operator with no experience taking down commercial properties.

Campbell was hired anyway.

Looming trouble

When Marinakos stopped by the “Hoagie City” building on June 4, 2013, he saw a freestanding, three- to four-story brick wall looming above the Salvation Army thrift store, which was set to open the next day.

Marinakos testified he told Campbell the wall was dangerous and it needed to come down immediately, adding that he “trusted” him to get it done.

“Up until that point, he was doing OK,” said Marinakos.

Campbell didn’t follow through.

Around 10:42 a.m. the next morning, the unsupported wall collapsed as an excavator operator chipped away at the opposite side of the building.

Six people died instantly, including Anne Bryan, a 24-year-old art student.

Thirteen others were injured.

Mariya Plekan, one of the civil case’s plaintiffs, was trapped in the rubble of the collapse for 13 hours. Both of her legs were later amputated at the hip.

Plekan, a Ukrainian immigrant, was awarded nearly $96 million in damages. After more than four months of testimony, a jury awarded the plaintiffs $227 million, a state record.

It’s unknown how much of that total Marinakos owes. Those figures are sealed by a confidentiality agreement.

Prosecutors granted him immunity from criminal charges in exchange for testifying before a grand jury and at Campbell’s criminal trial.

In October 2015, a jury convicted Campbell of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. He is serving 15-30 years in jail.

Excavator operator Sean Benschop pleaded guilty to the same charges. He was sentenced to 7.5-15 years behind bars.

Campbell and Benschop were the only two people criminally charged for their roles in the collapse.

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