Collapse Traps Philadelphia Firefighters, and One Dies

Lt. Sean Williamson could not be saved
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2022 9:15 AM CDT
Building Collapse Traps, Kills Philadelphia Firefighter
Emergency personnel respond to the scene of the fire in north Philadelphia.   (Philadelphia Fire Dept. via AP)

(Newser) – A building caught fire and later collapsed in Philadelphia, killing one firefighter and injuring five other people, authorities said. The fire was reported just before 2am Saturday in north Philadelphia, per the AP. Eight occupants were safely evacuated and the fire had been declared under control, officials said. At 3:24am, however, the building collapsed, said Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy. Lt. Sean Williamson, 51, was pronounced dead at the scene after he and another firefighter were freed from the rubble hours after the collapse. Three other firefighters and an inspector with the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections had been freed quickly after the collapse.

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel told reporters Saturday evening that rescuers “were able to communicate with" Williamson and another firefighter for most of the several hours they remained trapped, but because of the degree of the collapse and where Williamson was located within the structure, “we were not able to save him." One firefighter jumped from the second story to avoid being caught in the collapse, Murphy said. Two firefighters were listed in critical but stable condition at Temple University Hospital, while the other three victims were treated and released, officials said.

The former Marine was “highly respected throughout our department" and had trained “countless" cadets, Thiel said. Williamson is to have a “full honors” fire department funeral, “and given the outpouring of support that I’ve seen and we’ve seen as a department, you can expect this to be a pretty large event.” The fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the fire with assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Thiel said an engineering investigation into the collapse is also ongoing. “We're absolutely grieving—we're mourning," he added.

(Read more Philadelphia stories.)

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