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2 Inspectors Suspended Amid NOLA Hard Rock Reports

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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According to reports, New Orleans officials have suspended two building inspectors after allegations surfaced that they falsified reports for the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans project, just months before the structure partially collapsed.

What’s more, is that a separate investigation has found that multiple people hired as inspectors were operating without the proper licenses.

Accident Background

Around 9 a.m. on Oct. 12, part of the Hard Rock Hotel building gave way, resulting in a partial collapse of the structure, with more than 30 injuries and three worker fatalities. Project officials have reported that 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.

In the safety efforts that followed the incident, 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. Due to these various factors and hazardous conditions, search teams were only able to recover one of the bodies of the deceased.

Metairie, Louisiana-based Citadel Builders was 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 sometime this year.

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.

Eight days following the hotel’s partial collapse, an evacuation order was put into effect as two cranes were imploded on the construction site—a decision that made the overall site safer than its collapse on Oct. 12, according to reports.

Lawsuits & Demolition

By November, at least 12 lawsuits were already reported to be filed for damages against Citadel Builders and other defendants including: 1031 Canal Development LLC, developer Kailas Companies, Harry Baker Smith Architects, Heaslip Engineering and All Star Electric in civil court.

While the lawsuits vary, the allegations have included project negligence, delays, design changes, “shortcuts” and failure to provide a safe work environment as just a few of the reasons believed to be the cause of the incident.

Around the same time, Cantrell told reporters that, “The building is so unstable that no engineer would sign off on even partial demolition,” and that plans were in motion for a full demolition of the structure that could involve the use of controlled explosives.

Following up with Cantrell’s predictions, nola.com reported in November a plan to implode the structure as early as January, followed by three months of cleanup. Once demolished, crews intended to locate and recover the remains of two deceased workers still located within the rubble.

Thus far, post-collapse recovery and repair costs are reported to have reached more than $6 million, with $2.4 million going to public safety, police and payroll; $1.2 million to street repairs; $850,000 to the Regional Transit Authority for infrastructure damages; $847,500 for theatre repairs and lost revenue; and $700,000 for debris removal, equipment and other miscellaneous costs.

The New Orleans Advocate also reported that the building’s owners and their insurers have paid $5 million for the failed crane demolitions that took place last month.

Regarding these expenses, the city has announced that it plans to pass these costs off to the entity found responsible for the collapse. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation has been launched since the tragedy, and the agency has opened various inspection cases. The New Orleans Police Department is also investigating the incident as part of “unclassified deaths.”

In December, though, Hard Rock Hotel developer 1031 Canal Development LLC announced a new conventional demolition plan for the city's partially collapsed structure, concluding that implosion methods would not be used to demolish the structure afterall.

In fact, at the beginning of the year, authorities released a demolition timeline, reporting that a full demolition will take place in December 2020 at the earliest, adding that stabilization of the building will take place on May 7.

At the end of January, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to form a special committee that will hold hearings on the October 2019 collapse of the under-construction Hard Rock Hotel as well as the recovery and demolition efforts that are ongoing. This was met with some criticism, as Cantrell went on record with concerns that the hearings will put the official investigations at risk.

What Now

New Orleans radio station WWLT reported that inspectors Julie Tweeter and Eric Treadaway have been suspended for 30 days without pay for submitting reports that said they had inspected several projects (including the Hard Rock) despite GPS data that failed to locate them at the premises during the time the reports claimed.

Investigative reporter David Hammer also noted that he had a recording of a meeting among inspectors and building officials that allegedly captured field inspectors being chastised for filing false reports.

One of the alleged falsified reports was from Tweeter, in which she “approved” the work prior to crews pouring concrete on the top floors.

In addition to the falsifications, the Advocate reported that several inspectors that were approving work were not properly licensed. Tweeter, for example, had allegedly inspected the Hard Rock at least four times before she obtained her commercial building inspector’s license.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Hotels; Inspection; NA; North America; Safety

Comment from john lienert, (2/26/2020, 6:49 AM)

fired ?? poor babies.....I'll bet the dead guys wish they were just "fired"......is the D.A. related to the murderers ? negligent homicide is a real crime


Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (2/27/2020, 1:43 PM)

There will probably be many more interesting facts about this event!!!!


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