Michael Resnick, the city's Public Safety Director, describes how rescuers found 61-year-old Myra Plekam alive after nearly 13 hours of sifting through the rubble and debris of a collapsed building in Center City Philadelphia.
A day that was dominated by despair with the recovery of six bodies from the debris of a building collapse ended on a high note when rescuers early Thursday morning located a survivor in the rubble.
After 13 hours of digging through the rubble of the collapse site in Center City Philadelphia, a firefighter reached down to grab Myra Plekan's hand.
"I think they were digging and they felt her and she was able to respond and squeeze their hand," said Michael Resnick, the city's public safety director. "It feels outstanding to be able to pull somebody alive out of the rubble," Resnick said. "She was talking to the firefighters as they were recovering her."
Plekan was rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in critical condition, following the collapse of a 4-story building under demolition, into a Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market street. She was the last person crews were actively searching for after the building collapsed around 10:45 Wednesday morning with workers and customers inside.
"With all the despair, that person being pulled out is what this rescue and every rescue is all about," Ayers said. "We press forward because we believe there's that one voice there somewhere, just someone waiting for us to get to them."
Five women and one man died in the collapse. They are identified as Kimberly Finnegan, Borbor Davis, Juanita Harmin, Mary Simpson, Anne Bryan and Roseline Conteh.
The Salvation Army confirmed through a statement that two of the victims who died were store employees:
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life of the six individuals who perished in the wake of yesterday's building collapse. The passing of these individuals, including two of our employees, will be felt across our entire organization and throughout the community. . .The Salvation Army has been in contact with the families to offer emotional and spiritual support..."
In all, 13 people were rescued, most by two roofers who were working nearby and rushed to the scene. Emergency crews followed about five minutes after the collapse.
All but three of the injured are women as well. They are identified as Susan Randall, Betty Brown, Shirley Ball, Linda Bell, Jennifer Reynolds, Nadine White, Margarita Agosta, Rosemary Kreutzberg, Felicia Hill, Daniel Johnson, Richard Stasiorowski and Myra Plekan.
"We have a good story to tell," Ayers said. "We had a lot of rescues and we were very happy with that." Ayers applauded a paramedic-in-training who, on his own, rescued four people yesterday.
Crews spent most of today searching one last section of the site and taking down the last section of wall that was still standing before clearing the scene and turning the investigation over to the Fire Marshall, Licenses and Inspections and the Philadelphia Police department.
Mayor Nutter would not answer specific questions on the day of the collapse about whether the demolition site was properly inspected. However, he revealed Thursday that one pre-demolition inspection was required and that inspection was completed. No subsequent inspections took place. Licenses and Inspections Deputy Commissioner Carlton Williams said that the work at the site had not progressed to the point that a further inspection was required.
The daughter of the demolition contractor says her father is "devastated" about what happened. Dominique Lee answered the door at Griffin Campbell's home in North Philadelphia this afternoon and said he wasn't home, but that "he's mourning the loss of those people just like everyone else."