Hard Rock Hotel Rescue and Recovery Efforts Resume, as Danger Lingers in New Orleans

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Rescue and recovery crews resumed their search this morning for the final victims of Saturday’s Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans, following a night of rain that only increased the dangers facing those who enter the stricken building.

“It is still a very, very dangerous building, a dangerous situation,” New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell said late Monday afternoon. “That tower is still heavily damaged and unsecured, and we’re a long way from being in a safe mode.”

Engineers Working to Stabilize and Remove Damaged Cranes

The Hard Rock Hotel was under construction when the first six floors began to collapse around 9:12 a.m. on October 12 2019, sending metal and debris crashing onto the busy streets below. The disaster killed at least two construction workers, left a third missing, and sent 30 others to hospitals across New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

The body of one deceased worker was recovered on Sunday. Although crews know the location of the second, they have not yet been able to reach his remains.

The status of the missing worker, who’s believed to be on or above the eighth floor, is unknown.

There remains a real possibility of further collapse, and two severely damaged cranes are also at risk of falling. Starting today, rescue and recovery workers will be wearing masks as a precaution against crushed concrete should those fears be realized.

Earlier today, McConnel confirmed that New Orleans is working with engineers who responded to the Oklahoma City bombing and World Trade Center attack to formulate a plan for removing – or at least stabilizing – the cranes. The city has also brought in equipment to chew up concrete and remove obstacles blocking rescue and recovery teams.

Firms Working on Hard Rock Hotel Construction

Located at the corner of Canal and Rampart Streets, the Hard Rock Hotel was scheduled to open in the spring. Metairie-based Citadel Builders is listed as the project’s general contractor, and the building was designed by Harry Smith Baker Architects.

According to NOLA.com, the Hard Rock Hotel’s developer, 1031 Canal Street, is a consortium between Kailas Companies President Mohan Kailas, Citadel Builders President Denzel Clark, and All-Star Electric CEO Todd Trosclair. Kailas has a majority stake in the firm.

Trosclair’s firm is also an electrical contractor on the project. Heaslip Engineering, headquartered in Metairie, serves as structural engineer, while New Orleans-based Moses Engineering is listed as the mechanical engineer.

Around 50 subcontractors are involved in the Hard Rock Hotel Construction. On Saturday, workers onsite told NOLA.com they were with King Company, listed as a drywall subcontractor, and Ryan Masonary; however, Ryan was not included on a list provided by Citadel Builders.

Pool Hoisted atop Hard Rock Hotel Hours Before Collapse

So far, it’s not clear what caused the Hard Rock Hotel to collapse. With all efforts focused on rescue and recovery, the cause could remain a mystery for some time.

Nevertheless, there has been some speculation that a pool hoisted to the top of the building on Friday, just hours before the collapse, might have contributed to the disaster.

While the pool is currently situated on a lower floor on the Canal Street side of the building, plans for the Hard Rock Hotel show proposals for a pool on the Rampart Street side where the structure gave way on Saturday morning.

Whether the pool contributed to the collapse or not, it’s now become a problem for rescue and recovery workers. On Monday, a hole was drill to allow rainwater to drain and prevent the pool from adding any more weight to the already compromised building.

Original Hard Rock Hotel Developer Sentenced to Prison

There’s also concern that concrete poured on the hotel’s top floor wasn’t given enough time to cure, and some have suggested that the project’s well-publicized financial woes might have encouraged dangerous cost-cutting.

The Hard Rock Hotel’s original developer, Praveen Kailas, was sentenced to jail on federal charges of conspiracy and theft of public funds. At that point, his father, Mohan, took over.

Ownership of the Hard Rock Hotel site in New Orleans has switched between six LLCs in just the past 10 years, including four times in 2017 for $0.

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