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Building inspector tied to collapse kills self

PHILADELPHIA -- A veteran Philadelphia building inspector who apparently committed suicide had inspected the site of a deadly building collapse twice in February and an adjacent, related project in mid-May.

"We had six people who died in the building collapse and now we've had another person perish because of this particular tragedy," Mayor Michael Nutter said. He called the death of 52-year-old Ronald Wagenhoffer by self-inflicted gunshot wound "astounding" and "painful."

A four-story building tumbled onto a small thrift shop June 5. The demolition site consisted of three attached buildings.

City records show that Wagenhoffer inspected the site before work began on Feb. 12 and again on Feb. 25, after it got under way. He returned to the strip of attached storefronts on May 14 after a citizen complained about the demolition being conducted at the building next door to the one that collapsed. Wagenhoffer found the complaint unfounded.

A demolition subcontractor, 42-year-old Sean Benschop, has been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly being "impaired" by marijuana and painkillers while operating an excavator just before the crash. He also had his right hand in a cast, but his lawyer has said he was fit to work that day. The collapse was an accident and Benschop was not responsible for it, his lawyer has said.

Wagenhoffer was not the person who approved the demolition permit.

Nutter said he had talked to Wagenhoffer's wife, Michele, yesterday morning to offer support. The couple married 10 years ago and have a young son, according to Wagenhoffer's Facebook page.

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