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Family of 2 York City firefighters killed in building collapse sue owner

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

The estates of York City firefighters Ivan Flanscha and Zach Anthony have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the building where the two firefighters died in a 2018 building collapse.

Flanscha, 50, and Anthony, 29, were killed March 22, 2018, when part of the former Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building at 127 N. Broad St. gave way. The structure had burned much of the previous day, and the firefighters were putting out remaining hot spots.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in York County Court against Weaver Warehouse LLC,  owner Matthew Steinkamp, Steinkamp Construction and foremen/project superintendents Paul and Anthony Caldwell.

Filed by Flanscha's widow, Casey Flanscha, and Anthony's mother, Karen Anthony, it alleges Steinkamp and others involved with the then-ongoing Weaver building construction project had a duty to ensure the project was running safely, that conditions at the site were safe and that items weren't stored there that could constitute "a hazardous fuel load in case of fire."

The defendants failed to keep the site clear of fire hazards and to ensure a fire-safety plan was in place, and failed to ensure that "conditions on and about the project and building were safe and in accordance with codes, regulations and generally accepted industry safety practices and standards," according to the lawsuit.

They also allegedly failed to ensure there was "an appropriate fire warning and suppression system in place" at the building site, "and that the building was reasonably protected from the initiation and spread of fire," the lawsuit states.

More allegations: On the day of the fire, "large amounts of combustibles and flammable material were being stored on the first floor," including paint thinner, 130 hollow-core doors, wood trim, stacks of lumber, plywood, old wood, diesel fuel, kerosene and gasoline, according to the suit.

York City firefighters Zachary Anthony, left, and Ivan Flanscha. EOW March 21, 2018.
Photos courtesy of Brian Bastinelli

Also that day, there were multiple tornado heaters at the site, and the building's electrical system was old and "constantly" tripping and malfunctioning, the lawsuit alleges.

"Conditions that existed in the building in the days before the fire increased the risk that a fire would be unintentionally initiated and then spread quickly throughout the building," the suit states.

When the building burned on March 21, 2018, the "large amount" of fuel at the site fed flames, which engulfed the entire south wing of the four-story warehouse and burned out of control, causing part of it to collapse, according to the lawsuit.

The next day, city firefighters returned to search for hot spots, which is when structural engineer Joshua Carney of York-based Carney Engineering Corp., examined the building and told the York City Department of Fire and Rescue Services that the building "was sound and stable and ... safe for entry by firefighters."

While the firefighters were on an upper floor, that portion of the building collapsed, causing them to plummet to the ground and become trapped in debris.

Emergency crews are still on the scene of a blaze at the former Weaver Organ & Piano Co. building on N. Broad Street, Thursday, March 22, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

Two other firefighters with Flanscha and Anthony at the time — retired Assistant Chief Greg Altland andf firefighter Erik Swanson — survived the fall. They and their wives have also sued Carney and his company.

The estates of Flanscha and Anthony also have a lawsuit pending against Carney and his company.

Thursday's lawsuit alleges the Weaver defendants' negligence were a substantial factor in the death of Flanscha and Anthony.

The plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $50,000, according to the lawsuit.

A phone number for Steinkamp has been disconnected and he could not be reached for comment.

A message left for Paul and Anthony Caldwell was not immediately returned Friday.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.