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Crews hope to save partially collapsed building in Phillipsburg

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: May 03 2014 04:50:00 PM CDT

Building collapse

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. -

Crews are hoping to save a historic building that collapsed onto a vehicle in Phillipsburg. The building came down after a sport utility vehicle slammed into it early Saturday morning. Police believe the man behind the wheel was driving under the influence.

The crash happened at Union Square, a collection of 19th century buildings near the foot of the Phillipsburg-Easton Free Bridge. Just after 3 a.m. Saturday, an SUV drove across the bridge and slammed into the building's corner, causing all three floors to collapse onto the vehicle, according to Phillipsburg Police Lt. John Maczko.

Police said the driver, Vincent T. King, Jr., 22, of West Easton, only suffered minor injuries. King was being treated at St. Luke's Hospital-Warren, according to Maczko.

Police said King has been charged with DUI and resisting arrest. Maczko said King borrowed the car from a female friend. He said it is not clear how fast the car was traveling, although police are reviewing security camera footage along the Free Bridge.

King tried to run away from the scene until a police officer tackled him, according to Phillipsburg Mayor Harry Wyant.

"He tried to get away,¨ said Wyant. "It was hard to subdue him."

Court records indicate King's drivers license was revoked for a year after he pleaded guilty to a separate DUI in January. That case happened in Easton last fall.

The building was being renovated by Jim Guerra, a Bucks Co. architect who estimated he has already spent close to $40,000 on interior repairs. Crews will now tear down the damaged corner of the building, before a structural engineer determines if the building can be saved.

"They're optimistic," said Wyant. "They'll know more when they get this corner down."

Curious neighbors crowded around the collapsed historic building all day.

"That's crazy," said neighbor Kim Fulwiler. "That's about it."

Saturday afternoon, crews delicately removed a rare and expensive Italian motorcycle, dangling precariously from the collapsed building. The building contains several other collectible bikes as well.

"Giacomo Agostini was a very famous motorcycle racer, and he won many, many championships,¨said Guerra. "So this was a dedicated model to him."

Many neighbors were thankful the crash happened at such a late hour. The intersection is one of the busiest in Phillipsburg.

"Me and my grand-kids -- we always ride our bikes right down here -- almost every weekend," said neighbor Bobby Cassidy. "Glad we weren't there today."

Mayor Wyant said it is too early to tell how long Main Street in the area will be closed, although he was cautiously optimistic it could reopen by Monday morning.