UPDATE: Jan. 8, 2020: The time it will take to stabilize the partially-collapsed Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans has been extended until May, with demolition and site clearing estimated to be complete in December.
During a Jan. 2 press conference, New Orleans Fire Department Fire Chief Tim McConnell said that the owners of the Hard Rock, 1031 Canal Development LLC, submitted a new stabilization and demolition plan to the city on Dec. 24. "Unfortunately, that timeline has extended tremendously," he said, McConnell added that the city has requested the owner to revisit the plan and try to find a way to shorten the timeline.
In a statement released this week, 1031 Canal said that it "has no influence over the engineering design for stabilization or demolition." The owners said that court proceedings are also holding up the schedule.
"There is an injunction prohibiting work on the Hard Rock Hotel demolition until court approval of an evidentiary protocol," the company said. "This process has to be approved by plaintiff attorneys and other interested parties before being submitted and approved by the court. Only after this may demolition begin."
The owners also said they have been working with city engineers to come up with a solution, but McConnell clarified who has the ultimate responsibility. "It is the ownership's responsibility to make this right, to fix this problem," he said. "They caused it. It's their job to fix this thing."
- The developer of the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans has proposed a new demolition plan, one that does not include implosion, The Times-Picayune and The New Orleans Advocate reported.
- After meeting with New Orleans officials, developer 1031 Canal Development LLC announced that consulting demolition experts determined that the resulting debris field from implosion operations might damage buildings nearby. The switch to a conventional demolition, 1031 Canal said, could start sooner, would help keep the remaining structure stable, and would give crews a better chance at recovering the remains of two deceased workers still inside the building.
- Engineers hired by the city will evaluate the new plan, and New Orleans officials must sign off on it before 1031 Canal can proceed with demolition. New Orleans Fire Department Fire Chief Tim McConnell told local news outlets that the city would seek approval from "the courts," given that there are still ongoing investigations into the cause of the collapse.
The Oct. 12 collapse of the upper floors of the under construction hotel killed three workers, injured several others and left two unstable tower cranes threatening surrounding structures. The developer arranged for the demolition of the two cranes, but one crane failed to come down.
While authorities still have not determined the cause of the collapse, there has been a flurry of lawsuits filed against 1031 Canal and other parties to the project including general contractor Citadel Builders, developer Kailas Companies, Harry Baker Smith Architects, Heaslip Engineering and All Star Electric.
Some of the lawsuits allege deficiencies in the design and construction processes including:
- The design could not bear the full load of the hotel structure.
- Pile load test results submitted to the city were for a different project.
- Unskilled workers were brought in to save money.
Another claim is that there was inadequate support for the concrete being poured on the upper floors, which is where the structure gave way, and that the concrete was not allowed to cure properly.
A few days before the collapse, workers recorded a video of those areas. The footage seemed to reveal that there was not enough shoring holding up concrete floors and that shoring jacks were bent. Workers filming the video could be heard expressing concern about the integrity of the support system. However, experts who viewed the video said it does not provide enough evidence that those conditions caused the collapse.
Meanwhile, one of the construction workers who survived the accident, Delmer Ramirez-Palma (also referred to as Joel Ramirez Palma in some reports) has been deported to his native Honduras. There have been suggestions that his deportation is related to his participation in a lawsuit seeking damages from Hard Rock developers and others or that he was sent back to Honduras because he spoke publicly about the conditions that existed at the hotel site prior to the collapse.
However, Bryan Cox, acting press secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said there is no tie between the deportation action and the investigation. Cox told Construction Dive that Ramirez-Palma was deported on Nov. 29 in accordance with a February 2016 final order of removal issued by federal immigration courts. Since 2016, Ramirez-Palma had received temporary stays and avoided deportation, but his latest application was denied on Oct. 3, more than a week before the collapse.
Two days after the Hard Rock incident, Cox said, U.S. Border Patrol arrested Ramirez-Palma at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans East. It has been reported that Ramirez-Palma was fishing there without a license, drawing the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Border Patrol then transferred him into ICE custody, Cox said, because of his status as an immigration fugitive with an outstanding final order of removal.