​Philadelphia Building Inspector Worker Commits Suicide Amid Collapse

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June 15, 2013
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Philadelphia Building Inspector commits suicide after firing a single bullet into his own chest, shortly after claiming responsibility for the deadly collapse last week.

Philadelphia Building Inspector Suicide

“It was my fault. I should have looked at those guys working, and I didn’t,” Ronald Wagenhoffer, 52, said in a video message for his wife Michele and their son.

Wagenhoffer, a Philadelphia Licenses & Inspections worker, died alone in his pickup truck Wednesday — one week after six people lost their lives at 2136 Market St. in the Center City, reported NBC 10.

He was sent to a demolition site at 2134 Market St., just next store, on May 14. He reported that there were no violations. But he never inspected the adjacent work site — even after a citizen cited safety concerns.

L&I records show that Wagenhoffer supposedly inspected and passed 2136 Market St., the collapse site, on Feb. 25. In the recorded suicide message for his family, however, he admitted that he never even got out of his truck to even slightly examine the site.

“When I saw it was too late. I should have parked my truck and went over there, but I didn’t. I’m sorry,” he said in the one-minute clip.

The inspection of 2134 Market St. was scheduled after a local resident, Stephen Field, alerted the city on May 9 — via Philly’s 311 helpline — that he feared for the safety of the workers and pedestrians.

“The first thing I noticed was they were working without safety equipment,” Field told NBC 10. “There was nothing resembling efforts to prevent people walking by from being hit with brick.”

Wagenhoffer did not take any days off from work in the tragedy’s aftermath. He thought a daily routine might help him deal with the tragedy, a source close to the investigation said.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said that he will not second guess Wagenhoffer’s decision to keep working because every person “deals with… grief and sorrow and any sense of responsibility in a different way.” But he did ask any other city employees to reach out for emotional support if needed.

“Obviously I don’t know why this happened,” Nutter said, “but we’ve tried to send a message out certainly to all of our public employees who are deeply affected by this.”