Building Inspector Commits Suicide, Blames Himself For Deaths In Philadelphia Building Collapse

Mr. Conservative – by Bookworm

Sometimes tragedies have a terrible domino effect, with the first event triggering others. So it was in the case of the Philadelphia building that collapsed on June 5 while it was being demolished, falling onto a neighboring business and killing six people. Police alleged that a heavy equipment operator high on marijuana was to blame, but Ronald Wagenhoffer, a building inspector, felt he was at fault. He killed himself, leaving behind a wife, a 7-year-old son, and a video apology for his failure to perform his job right.  

Wagenhoffer was the city inspector who looked at the building that was to be demolished, and issued a demolition permit for the site. On May 6, Stephen Field, called Philadelphia’s municipal hotline to complain that the demolition site was unsafe. He said crews weren’t using safety equipment and they had not provided any protection for pedestrians walking by. Wagenhoffer returned to the site on May 14, but found no violations.

After the collapse, Wagenhoffer returned to work immediately, but was wracked by guilt. Then, on Wednesday, he left work in the early afternoon and, later that day, drove his truck a mile away from his home and shot himself once in the chest.

Wagenhoffer left behind a brief video recording in which he explained that he felt that he had not done his job properly, making him responsible for the accident:

It was my fault. I should have looked at those guys working, and I didn’t. When I saw it was too late. I should have parked my truck and went over there but I didn’t. I’m sorry.

Despite Wagenhoffer’s on personal sense of failure, the city has not been blaming him for the job he did. Instead, the Department of Licenses & Inspections Commissioner, Carlton Williams, said he was an excellent employee:

He was a dedicated civil servant who did his job,’ he said. ‘He started in the Department of Public Property and moved his way up through the ranks as one of our top code officials in the Department of Licenses & Inspections.

A grand jury has been convened to investigate the building’s collapse.

2 thoughts on “Building Inspector Commits Suicide, Blames Himself For Deaths In Philadelphia Building Collapse

  1. what a shame, his kid deserves a father and his wife a husband, even if he was at fault, some jail time a lawsuit against the city for negligence and the company doing the work but nothing worth taking your life over.

  2. As an electrical contractor, licensed in the state of North Carolina, I see that there is a severe lack of responsibility on behalf of the City of Greensboro, NC Inspections Department (Development Services) as I have personally witnessed the fact that the inspectors do not have access to tools required to perform inspections… and do not thoroughly inspect all areas of the project (such as not entering an attic to verify that electrical wiring and/or cable has been installed in a code-compliant manner. I have also been directly told by an inspector (at the time of the requested 30 minute call ahead – so that I could inform the homeowner/occupant and/or the business that the inspector was on the way to perform the inspection) that “I (the electrical inspector) don’t need to look at your work” and simply pass the job off as if the inspector had performed the inspection. I did notify the inspections department that this was an issue and simply suggested that the inspectors be required to either video tape or include photos of inspections (a simple request to help safeguard the public) and the idea was disregarded. I see major issues with enforcement which at the end of the day creates the potential for hazardous conditions to be existent. My professional opinion is that this inspector must have failed to perform duties in which he felt would or possibly could have prevented this tragedy or the inspector would not have become suicidal as a result of overwhelming guilt. The problem is that the system is and has failed to make efforts (video tape and/or photos) to ensure that inspectors are performing their job in a manner which will ensure safety of individuals on job sites as well as the occupants of a structure (home or business). The system is where the problems are and if not addressed throughout all states will indefinitely result in the continuance of tragic occurrences such as this. This is tremendously sad and is no doubt another example of how lives are endangered and will continue to be endangered until changes are made to ensure that inspections are carried out in a professional manner (documentation of the inspections). In my opinion no one should ever take a live of another human being nor should they commit suicide…BUT INSPECTIONS DEPARTMENTS EVERYWHERE SHOULD MAKE IMMEDIATE CHANGES (video and/or photos as documentation) TO BETTER ENSURE THE SAFETY OF HUMAN LIFE! My prayers go out to all families affected by this tragic incidence. My requests go out to all contractors that are knowledgeable of the described lack of effective systems being in place to GET INVOLVED AND HELP MAKE CHANGE TO BETTER SAFEGUARD THE LIVES OF THE PUBLIC (AS WELL AS THE INSPECTORS).

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