Looking Back: The fatal collapse of Pier 34, 10 years later

WHYY

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Pier 34 into the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

Three women drowned and dozens were injured after a nightclub on the pier plunged into the chilly waters.

Two men were put on trial for neglecting to fix the 90-year-old structure. They ended up pleading guilty.

Today, Doug Oliver is the press secretary for Mayor Nutter. But ten years ago, Oliver was engaged to be married to 25-year-old DeeAnn White, who was about to turn 26.

"She was celebrating her birthday," recalls Oliver, "but then two of her colleagues had just started working at the New Jersey State Aquarium. So they were going to celebrate their new jobs and her birthday and just do it all in one. But no one could have imagined it would have taken that turn."

White, along with her friends and colleagues Monica Rodriquez and Jean Marie Ferraro never made it home from their celebration that night.

"I was in my living room," says Oliver, "waiting for a phone call from DeAnn to come pick her up after she finished hanging out with her girlfriends. So I picked up the phone and it was from her sister, and the nightmare began that day."

Prosecutors charged the pier owner, Michael Asbell, and general manager of Club Heat, Eli Karetny, with third degree murder and other charges. Prosecutors said both men knew the pier was in imminent danger of collapse, but did nothing to fix it.

"[The victims] walked into the pier for what would be a night of fun and celebration," says Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy, who prosecuted the case. "It ended up being their last night. The pier, which was 90 years old, had a long history of problems, collapses that simply went unaddressed."

The jury could not agree on a verdict. Asbell and Karetny then pleaded guilty in order to prevent another trial. In 2008, they were sentenced to house arrest and 1,000 hours of community service.

A memorial service for White, Rodriquez, and Ferraro is planned for today.

Related Attorneys

Robert J. Mongeluzzi

Office: 215-575-2989

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