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Building Collapse Blamed on Illegal Repairs

October 25, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ An illegal repair job was blamed Tuesday for the collapse of a six-story building that crumbled like a house of cards, killing one person and injuring about 12 others.

The owner of the building in Manhattan’s Garment District died when one wall fell away and the interior floors tumbled to the ground Monday afternoon.

One survivor, Robin Fischer, 27, of Brooklyn, underwent surgery Tuesday to repair damage to her crushed legs. Fischer, who apparently was working on the sixth floor of the building, was pulled from the rubble more than eight hours later when rescuers heard her say, ″I’m Robin. Get me out.″

Police and investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office examined the wreckage Tuesday as emergency crews continued to dismantle what remained of the building.

″So far there’s been no one arrested,″ said Gloria Montealegre, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. ″We’re still in the process of finding out if there’s any criminal liability.″

The building was owned by Frank DeSantis, 64, whose body was pulled from the rubble late Monday night. Buildings Commissioner Charles Smith said DeSantis had apparently hired a contractor to repair the building after he noticed a bulge in its western wall.

As workers began to remove old sections of the wall to repair it, Smith said, ″bricks started popping out.″ Then, he said, the workers dug a trench along the wall and tried to shore it up with wooden planks.

″That didn’t do any good and probably (did) more harm,″ the commissioner said. ″Shortly after that, the wall collapsed.″

Smith said he didn’t know why the contractor, John Varkaris of JRV Construction Co., dug the ditch. Varkaris did not immediately return a message left Tuesday on an answering machine at his home.

A man who answered the telephone Tuesday at DeSantis’ office declined to discuss the incident. ″We’re taking no calls and making no comments,″ he said.

Smith said the work was similar to that being done at a five-story building in Greenwich Village that collapsed last November, trapping five residents and killing a 13-month-old boy. In both cases, he said, the work was being done without permits.

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