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NOLA Works on Hard Rock Demo, Cranes

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

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Last weekend, crews carried out the demolition of two damaged cranes that remained at the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans. The demolition—originally slated for Oct. 18—was rescheduled twice: once for Tropical Storm Nestor and again after experts discovered that the cranes were more damaged than previously believed.

While debris is still being removed from the site, reports indicate that search and extraction efforts for the two remaining bodies inside the structure will begin soon.

What Happened

Around 9 a.m. on Oct. 12, part of the Hard Rock Hotel building gave way, resulting in the collapse of the structure’s upper floors on the corner of Canal and North Rampart streets. The incident resulted in the death of three construction workers and injuries to 30 other individuals.

In the safety efforts that followed, 10 surrounding buildings were evacuated as electricity and gas to the buildings and condominiums were turned off, while damage to the roof of the neighboring historic Saenger Theater caused the cancellation of many scheduled performances.

According to New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell, a crane weighing several tons that was attached to the Hard Rock was also damaged and unstable. Other officials added that it appeared initial damages were caused by the collapse of floors six through eight, which resulted in additional damage spread throughout a large portion of the building.

Due to these various factors and hazardous conditions, search teams were only able to recover one of the bodies of the deceased and had been unable to search for the missing construction worker.

Metairie, Louisiana-based Citadel Builders has been identified as the general contractor on the Hard Rock construction project, which was slated to be an 18-story, 350-room hotel near the city’s French Quarter. The hotel was expected to open in 2020.

Although the collapse will undergo an investigation, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told ABC News at the time that all preliminary information on the structure showed that all proper permits had been obtained and that everything was up to code.

Since the collapse, Citadel Builders has flown in the chief engineer for Morrow Cranes—the crane owner—the head engineer of the manufacturer from Munich, Germany, and several other engineers to help with recovery efforts and stabilizing the damaged crane.

CNN reported that an additional 110-ton crane also received a police escort from Baton Rouge to be assembled onsite in order to aid in stabilization and facilitate response operations. Brian Trascher, a spokesperson for Citadel Builders, also reported that the company was working closely with the city to stabilize the building.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is slated to help in future investigative efforts once rescue efforts have been completed and have reportedly acquired all documents such as papers, maps, blueprints and computers from the Hard Rock Hotel site.

It is also reported that following the hotel’s collapse, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in Orleans Parish for fear of the upcoming tropical weather, which posed an urgent threat to the city of New Orleans. The declaration allows the state of Louisiana to provide additional necessary assistance to the city.

“I am extremely grateful to the mayor’s office, the city of New Orleans and the incredibly skilled engineers who have taken on this task. As I said yesterday, the state is committed to providing the city with any resources they may need,” Edwards said.

“We spent all of yesterday working with the city, the building owner, the contractor and the contractors who will be able to eliminate the threat posed by the two cranes. I will continue to work with the mayor to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect lives and property.”

Crane Implosion, Next Steps

Just eight days after the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, an evacuation order was put into effect as two cranes were imploded on the construction site. A decision that has made the overall site safer than its collapse on Oct. 12.

As a result of the controlled demolition, one crane was reported to have impaled and damaged a sewer line on Rampart Street—which was expected, according to the city—and broke three windows at the Saenger Theater and others at the historic Roosevelt Hotel.

No damage was reported to affect surrounding major power or gas lines. The evacuation order for the demolition was lifted later that afternoon and utilities were turned back on as well.

Although a portion of the second crane remains hanging on the side of the building, McConnell stated the arm is secure and is slated to be cut and removed piece by piece by an additional crane.

Cantrell added that engineers are continuing to inspect the building now, while members of the National Guard are expected to begin searches for the two bodies remaining inside the Hard Rock Hotel prior to the implosion. However, more debris will have to be removed before these efforts can commence.

"There's just no getting in there safely," said McConnell. "The goal is to pick (debris) off from there, very carefully, piece by piece, from the top down, because we can't have anything fall on the first responders who are there doing it. We haven't lost another life, and we've got to keep it that way."

Officials report that the debris removal, search efforts and the presence of police, firefighters and other city workers are costing the city roughly $400,000 a day. Cantrell adds, however, that these costs will be recouped once the “responsible party” for the disaster is found.

“We’re making sure every step of the way the liability is with the responsible party, and that is not with the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said.

In addition to officials redoubling their efforts to recover the two bodies remaining inside the structure, the city is also working with the property owner in continuing to secure the site and begin a full demolition process after the deceased are removed.

Since the partial collapse, 11 lawsuits have been filed by various site workers, surrounding businesses, bystanders and children of the two workers killed as a result of the incident.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Cranes; Demolition; Engineers; Explosions; Fatalities; Health and safety; Hotels; Lawsuits; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; PaintSquare App - Commercial; Project Management; Safety

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