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Guard: Pier Cracked Before Collapse

November 14, 2001

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A nightclub pier developed a foot-wide crack 2 1/2 hours before it collapsed last year into the Delaware River, killing three, a security guard testified Tuesday.

Lawrence Price said during a preliminary hearing that he helped a manager put sheet metal over the crack so patrons of the Heat nightclub on the century-old pier wouldn’t trip.

A judge is trying to decide whether to send the case to trial. The hearing was scheduled to continue Wednesday.

The nightclub operator, Eli Karetny, and the pier owner, Michael Asbell, face three counts of involuntary manslaughter as well as 43 counts of reckless endangerment, risking a catastrophe, failure to prevent a catastrophe and criminal conspiracy.

The defendants have said they were never warned that the pier was on the verge of collapsing.

Juana Collins testified she saw a ``tidal wave″ of water rush into the club as it dropped into the river on May 18, 2000. She said she ``looked up and saw the whole side of the building kind of fall.″

Collins, who suffered a broken back and hypothermia in the collapse, broke into tears and could not continue. The three women who died were her co-workers.

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