Last week's horrific building collapse in Philadelphia ended up killing six people in all. But there's been yet another fatality linked to the collapse. Building Inspector Ronald Wagenhoffer killed himself last night. He was found in his truck with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. His May 14 inspection of the building was the last survey of the building before its fatal collapse.
Wagenhoffer texted his wife just before shooting himself. She found his body at 9:00 p.m. that night. You can imagine her panic as she got that message and the hopelessness and heartbreak when she arrived and found she was too late to stop her husband. The couple had a son.
In a press conference, Deputy Mayor Everette Gillison said:
With the building collapse a week ago, we have now lost seven lives in connection with this tragedy ... This man did nothing wrong. The department did what it was supposed to do.
Despite what Gillison says, I think Wagenhoffer must have felt responsible for the collapse. Maybe he knew something about the building but kept it under wraps because he thought everything would be all right. Maybe he did a thorough job, but has been wracking his brains over what he must have missed. Either way, it must have been eating him alive.
I still wish he could have forgiven himself and found some other way to work through his feelings of responsibility. His death does not reverse the deaths of the six victims. It's not an equal payment. There's no such thing as blood atonement for accidents. Wagonhoffer's suicide only makes things worse. He's left behind a son and a wife, people who needed him. The tragedy has only deepened.
Do you think Wagenhoffer could have worked through his feelings about the collapse without resorting to suicide?
Image via Jim, the Photographer/Flickr