Local/State

Survivor of Center City building collapse speaks out

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Building collapse survivor Felicia Hill. Building collapse survivor Felicia Hill.

For the first time we are hearing from one of the survivors who was inside the Salvation Army Thrift Store when a building being demolished next door collapsed on top of it.

36-year-old Felicia Hill of Philadelphia is the mother of seven children. She worked at the store and was in the back, she says, pricing clothing when all of a sudden the unimaginable happened.

"When I heard the bricks falling from the ceiling, I felt shaking, like an earthquake," she said. "And then I heard a gust of wind come in, and I saw the wall fall and the dust cloud."

Hill relived the painful, horrific moments at a news conference hosted by her attorneys Monday.

She says she was in the back part of the store and had just glanced over at her friend and co-worker, Kimberly Finnegan, who was at the cash register up front

"Before the wall had come down, I had actually looked at her, and the wall had come down and I didn't see her anymore," said Hill.

Finnegan was killed. Hill thought that she, too, was going to die.

"I started running for my life," she said. "And the only think I could think about was my children."

Hill somehow managed to get out thru a back loading dock with the help of her supervisor. Six other workers and customers were not as fortunate.

Monday in Roxborough, family, friends and members of the public gathered at the Koller Funeral Home to pay their respects to 35-year-old Kimberly Finnegan. Also there was Kimberly's fiancée, Robert Coleman.

Meanwhile Hill said she is having a difficult time coping with the loss of several of her co-workers.

"I'm going thru a range of emotions: sadness, hurt, anger. Right now I'm just distraught," she said.

Hill's attorneys were allowed to inspect the demolition site over the weekend.

Based on everything they saw, and now know, their assessment is this:

"It is clear that they did not have a clue what they were doing," said attorney Robert Mongeluzzi. "This demolition could not be done the way they were doing it. They didn't have an excavator that was big enough. They had a building without steel in it. It should have been done by hand."

Mongeluzzi said one of the first rules of demolition is to have an engineering survery done. He said in this case, there was no engineering survey done at all.

The law firm of Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky now represents six of the collapse survivors.

In addition to Felicia Hill, they are:

Nadine White, 54, of Philadelphia, who worked at the store.

Jennifer Reynolds, 27, of Philadelphia, an event planner, who was shopping in the store at the time of the collapse.

Bernard DiTomo, 61, of Broomall, Delaware County, a construction worker whose truck was struck by flying debris on 22nd Street.

Rosemary Kreutzberg, 66, of Philadelphia, a retired insurance professional who was shopping in the store at the time of the collapse.

Rodney Geddis, 21, of Philadelphia, who worked at the store.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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philadelphia, center city, collapse, local/state
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