- New Orleans officials are preparing for full demolition of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans, even though the remains of two workers killed in the Oct. 12 collapse have not yet been recovered, according to statements New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell made to WDSU News this week. "The building is so unstable that no engineer would sign off on even partial demolition," Cantrell said, meaning that the entire remaining structure must be taken down to avoid further collapse.
- Cantrell told WDSU that she expected the hotel's owner to deliver a demolition plan and a signed contract for the work to her this week. There is no timetable yet for the demolition, but New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell must approve it before it can move forward.
- It is possible that the new demolition plan will include explosives but not on the scale of those that crews used in their attempt to bring down two damaged tower cranes at the hotel site last month. Cantrell said that once the building is fully demolished, crews will continue with their efforts to recover the bodies of the two deceased workers.
The owners and their insurers, according to The Times-Picayune|The New Orleans Advocate, have paid out $5 million for the crane demolition that failed to bring down both cranes as crews had hoped. The city, meanwhile, has spent more than $6 million on post-collapse recovery and repairs.
The breakdown of the city's costs so far include:
- $2.4 million - public safety, police and other payroll
- $1.2 million - street repairs
- $850,000 - Regional Transit Authority infrastructure damages
- $847,500 - repairs and lost revenue owed to a nearby theater
- $700,000 (approximately) - debris removal, equipment and other costs
The city plans to pass costs on to whoever is responsible for the collapse, which is still unknown. A video recorded in the days before the accident could show that the shoring was not adequate to support the 18-story building's concrete floors as they cured, but some experts have disputed those conclusions and no official cause for the hotel's failure has been determined.
Meanwhile, OSHA's investigation into the accident is in full swing. So far, the agency has opened inspection cases at the hotel's 1031 Canal Street address for general contractor Citadel Builders, Rush Masonry Inc., Southern Earth Sciences Inc. Regional Mechanical Services LLC, F. Mata Masonry LLC, King Company LLC (here and here), Southern Services and Equipment Inc., S&S Construction and Consulting LLC, Arcadia Rebar Inc. and Rey Co. Inc. The opening of an inspection does not indicate guilt.
The list of opened cases has grown since the collapse, and, according to attorney Phillip Russell with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, & Stewart in Tampa, Florida, that's no surprise, given the magnitude of the incident.
"OSHA doesn't really know on day one who is involved," he said. "It takes a while for OSHA to ask questions."
What the agency will be looking for, Russell said, is outlined in OSHA"s multi-employer citation policy.
When it comes to determining who is responsible for safety incidents, OSHA looks at who is a:
- Creating employer — the employer that created the hazard
- Exposing employer — the employer whose employees were exposed to the hazard
- Correcting employer — the employer on the same site as the exposing employer and is responsible for correcting hazards.
- Controlling employer — the employer that has general supervisory authority on the project and that has the power to either correct hazards or instruct others to do so.
A single employer could fall into more than one of these categories.
There is also a chance, Russell said, that the agency's Office of Engineering Services (OES), a unit under the Directorate of Construction, could step in and try to determine the cause of the collapse in the same way it did with the Florida International University pedestrian bridge failure in Miami.
However, there are no official guidelines that govern when the OES steps into these cases.
"I would expect that could happen here, but it still takes a while for [the OES] to do a write-up," Russell said. "I would think there is a higher likelihood of the construction directorate writing a report and analysis on this based on the attention given to the case."
And as in many cases of a catastrophic failure, he said, the question will likely be "a catastrophic failure of what?"
"More often than not, it's not one big thing," Russell said. "It's a combination of small things that result in a catastrophic failure like that."