heavy equipment accidents, personal injury

Video shot before Hard Rock hotel collapse could provide valuable clues

Investigators are working to verify a cell phone video taken a couple of days before the Hard Rock hotel collapsed in New Orleans on Oct. 12, killing three construction workers and injuring 20 others. The video, taken by a Spanish-speaking worker, shows slabs of sagging cement and steel support beams bending precariously under the weight.

Local concrete contractor Randy Gaspard told the Times-Picayune that a worker shot the video on Oct. 10. He said he received the video from the worker who took it but declined to identify the man or his employer.

If verified, the video could hold important clues for investigators working to determine the cause of the collapse. The lower floors of the 18-story hotel building remain standing under the weight of several top floors that pancaked in. The man who shot the video uses expletives to describe the work. He points out the large stretches between the supports and buckling beams, saying they “are already to the point of breaking.”

Mr. Gaspard told authorities that workers had been removing temporary posts, which noticeably put excessive weight on the supports. He said they warned supervisors about the perilous situation but were told to keep going.

According to the Times-Picayune, another worker who escaped the building collapse told the press that “the metal beams seemed to be too thin and too separated.”

New Orleans Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said investigators are trying to verify the video.

“We’re well aware of it,” he said. “That will certainly be part of the investigation and our evaluation of what caused it.”

Two heavily damaged cranes that remained standing onsite were the biggest concern for workers trying to stabilize the site, which has created some pandemonium in the heart of the city. Several buildings on surrounding blocks remain closed to business operators and residents. Streets and streetcar lines have been closed off around the building.

The city is using explosives to take down the two cranes hovering over the city. The decision to demolish the cranes, which have been moving slightly since the collapse, took on even more urgency as tropical storm Nestor near Mexico turned northward toward the Gulf states. Authorities have said that even without gusty winds and rain, the Hard Rock hotel building was likely to collapse even further. The demolition is planned for midday Saturday.

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