A proposed $8.4 million plan to demolish the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans centers on carefully extricating the trapped bodies of two construction workers who were killed when the building crumpled last October.

hard rock new orleans 01 Demolition of New Orleans Hard Rock Hotel could be completed in OctoberIf City Hall accepts the latest plan submitted by 1031 Canal Development LLC, the developer of the collapsed hotel, a highly controlled and methodical demolition of the building would start. Under the proposed six-month timeline, the project would be completed in October, on or near the one-year anniversary, if the plan is approved and the project gets underway next week.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Kern Reese is pushing Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration for a verdict on whether the city will accept the developer’s latest plans. The proposed plans come after months of debate and attempts to agree on whether a conventional demolition or implosion is the best method of clearing the site.

Safe removal of workers’ bodies a priority

The current plan, which would be carried out by Missouri contractor Kolb Grading and demolition specialist Marschel Wrecking, also of Missouri, is a more detailed version of a conventional demolition that puts more emphasis on a dignified retrieval of the trapped workers’ remains.

The Oct. 12 collapse killed Jose Ponce Arreola, 63; Quinnyon Wimberly, 36; and Anthony Magrette, 49. The body of Mr. Magrette, who was working on a lower floor when the building collapsed, was recovered on Oct. 13. The bodies of Mr. Arreola and Mr. Wimberly, who were working on the upper floors, remain in the mangled wreckage. Eighteen other workers were seriously injured.

Under the proposed plan, the demolition would be performed piece by piece, starting with the removal of the tower crane that collapsed onto the roof of the Hard Rock Hotel. Three neighboring buildings – two on Canal and one on Iberville, would also be leveled to create a “drop zone” for the demolition. Contractors would then provide assistance to authorities to recover the bodies.

Controlled implosion unlikely

After the bodies are removed, the upper 10 steel and concrete floors would be collapsed onto the lower eight floors. Hauling off debris from the collapsed floors would take about two months.

“We may use robots or a man basket positioned at a safe distance using shears, pulverizers, torches, and high-reach equipment to free loose concrete and steel from the remaining intact structural frame,” the plan reads, according to The Advocate.

On Wednesday, April 29, WWL-TV reported that the demolition contractors responded to many of the city’s questions, but some safety concerns linger. The city also wants the developers to get more liability insurance before demolition proceeds. However, it remains to be seen whether the developer will be able to get more coverage. Last month they told the city that they had been unsuccessful in securing insurance for a controlled implosion of the building.

The city is also pressuring the developers to pay for the demolition costs.

“The City has held the line to ensure the owners of this project pay for its demolition,” a City Hall spokesperson told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. “The City has also remained and will continue to remain committed to ensuring that the methods for demolition and removal of the bodies still inside the building are done in a safe and efficient manner.”

Fines for safety violations

Earlier this month, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration faulted 11 contractors involved in the Hard Rock Hotel construction project for a multitude of safety violations that endangered the lives of workers.

OSHA cited Metairie-based Heaslip Engineering for the worst violations, including one willful safety violation for its failure to “adequately design, review or approve steel bolt connections affecting the structural integrity of the building.”

Other contractors working on the Hard Rock Hotel project were cited for violations that included a lack of training, not providing protective equipment and failing to keep exits clear.

Workplace injury lawyers

Beasley Allen handles a variety of cases related to workplace safety. While all workers should be guaranteed a safe working environment, all too often we handle cases of serious injuries and deaths resulting from a hazardous work environment. Many times our investigation reveals defective or dangerous machinery was involved, or employers failed to provide adequate protections or ignored safety regulations.

If you need more information, contact Kendall Dunson or Evan Allen, lawyers in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section who handle workplace litigation for our firm.

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