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Scaffold Collapses In Philly's Chinatown; 3 Injured

Nov 20, 2003 | AP A scaffold fell from a four-story building in the city's Chinatown section Wednesday, injuring three people and damaging at least five cars, fire officials said.

Two workers sustained serious neck and back injuries when they fell from the three-story wooden scaffolding, while a third worker underneath the scaffolding was less seriously injured, said Lt. Louis Liberati, who was at the scene.

The workers were being treated at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. A spokeswoman said they were being evaluated for fractures and head trauma.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse, which happened at about 1:30 p.m. High winds were whipping through the city Wednesday afternoon in advance of a line of storms that was racing across the state.

The fallen wooden scaffold, covered with a blue tarp, stretched across a city street and covered three cars.

Gavin Williams said the wind caught the tarp like a sail and pulled it down onto the car he was riding in while the vehicle was stopped at a traffic light. He exited the car by popping open its hatchback.

"Scary when you see a blue thing coming down on top of you," Williams said.

The city's Department of Licenses and Inspections and officials with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration were responding to the scene.

L&I issued violations to the Arch Street property on Oct. 31 regarding the building's cornices, maintenance to the exterior and roof, and the certification of the fire alarm system, spokeswoman Andrea Swan said.

The building's owners did have a permit to repair the building's roof, which required submitting plans showing the kind of work they wanted to do, Swan said.

L&I identifed the building's owner as Li He Ren of Cherry Hill, N.J., and the architect who applied for the permit as Charles Datner and Associates of Ardmore. A telephone listing for Li He Ren could not be found. A message left by The Associated Press at Charles Datner and Associates was not immediately returned.

L&I issued a stop work order for the permit after the accident, Swan said.

OSHA spokeswoman Leni Fortson said the accident was under investigation.

Authorities were trying to determine what company had put up the scaffolding. The city's Streets Department did not receive a request to put scaffolding on the sidewalk at the property, spokeswoman Cynthia Hite said.

Benny Lam, who owns a jewelry store across the street, said the scaffold went up only two nights before. He heard a loud noise when the structure fell.

"I heard the boom," he said. "I thought it was a truck hitting something."

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