BOSTON - The couple seriously injured when the facade of a building collapsed in Allston last fall filed a lawsuit on Monday against the building’s owner.
23-year-old Sonya Bandouil, a classically-trained concert pianist and teacher, was knocked to the ground and buried under tons of concrete and debris that fell from 85 Harvard Avenue on November 4. Her boyfriend, 25-year-old Alex Pankiewicz, was also injured, but wasn’t trapped. He worked with a passerby to move the cement blocks and rubble to free Bandouil. Another person called 911.
Surveillance video from the day shows the couple walking along the sidewalk as the facade collapses.
"I didn't even know if she was going to be alive or dead," Pankiewicz told Boston 25 News in an exclusive interview in March.
Bandouil’s injuries included fractures of her skull, spine, ribs, pelvis, foot, leg, collarbone and jaw; multiple internal injuries; and a injury to her dominant right hand that was so severe, one of her fingers had to be amputated.
Bandouil was hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Brigham & Women’s Hospital for 12 days. She spent an additional 11 days at the hospital before being transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for another 65 days.
Upon being released from Spaulding, Bandouil moved back in with her parents, who live in the Dallas-area, where she’s undergoing rehabilitation therapy multiple times a week.
Defendants in the lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, are Moss Realty LLP, owner of the building; Myer Dana and Sons, Inc., the company under contract to manage and maintain the building; and Badoinkas, Inc., tenant of the building and which operates a street level restaurant and bar in the building called, “The Common Ground.”
The building that fell on the couple was built almost a century ago. According to the complaint, “From at least 1950 to the present, members of the Moss family or entities controlled by the Moss family… have owned and operated the Property as a commercial enterprise and have leased the storefronts located on the Property to various retail businesses.”
The lawsuit alleges several counts of negligence, including, “Moss Realty failed, over a period of many years, properly to inspect the façade and parapet of the Property and maintain it in a structurally sound and safe condition.”
“This horrific building collapse onto a public sidewalk should never have happened,” said attorney Anthony Tarricone, one of the couple’s attorneys. “Debris from the collapse shows that the concrete parapet hanging over the sidewalk was in a seriously deteriorated condition for years. It was just a matter of time before it would crumble and collapse, with tons of large concrete blocks falling onto the public sidewalk along the length of the building—unfortunately—while Sonya and Alex were there. Commercial building owners and managers are responsible for maintaining buildings in a safe condition and ensuring that those who pass by or enter the premises are not put in harm’s way by the dangerously deficient structural integrity of the building.”
Bandouil had been playing piano since she was five, recently moving to New York, picking up gigs and teaching piano classes.
"At first, I was thinking, 'Okay, this is it,'" Bandouil told Boston 25 News. "'How can I play? I learned my whole life with five fingers, so how am I going to readjust?'"
It took weeks, but while re-learning to walk and beginning to talk again at Spaulding, Bandouil finally tried playing again.
"I think, maybe I shouldn't even bother because it's so frustrating," Bandouil said. "But, then I think about how it's my passion."
While her recovery will be a long journey, her spirit is unbreakable.
"She is a pianist, she always was a pianist," Pankiewicz said. "To stay motivated, to keep going. I've never seen anything like that."
Bandouil is playing easier pieces and plans to take piano lessons, and said she hopes to still have a career in music.
“The problem of crumbling buildings and the hazards they present in Boston and throughout the nation is substantial,” said Muhammad Aziz, another one of the couple’s attorneys. “Building owners and operators are under a duty to the public to ensure that catastrophic failures like this do not occur. An aspiring pianist’s career has been stolen from her, and this young couple is no doubt traumatized for life.”
Boston 25 News has reached out to the defendants named in the lawsuit for comment.
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