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Fri May 29, 2020, 03:57 PM

Bodies of 2 men trapped in NOLA Hard Rock rubble to be removed by mid-June - FINALLY


NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans City Council members heard a detailed timeline on the planned demolition of the Hard Rock Hotel site from an engineer who said the task poses no threat to surrounding buildings downtown. Work to bring down the collapsed structure is expected to begin next week, and the bodies of two men trapped in the rubble should be removed by mid-June, the engineer said.

Structural engineer Walter Zehner, part of the demolition team, told council members the first task will be to remove a construction crane perched over Canal Street. It was one of two cranes brought down in a controlled implosion about a week after the upper floors of the hotel collapsed, killing three construction workers. On Thursday, the crane that fell onto Rampart Street was taken apart so it could be hauled from the site. Before the two workers’ remains can be removed, Zehner said crews will have to remove overhead material that poses a risk to New Orleans Fire Department personnel who will retrieve the bodies. He expects their remains will be taken from the site by mid-June.

The location of one body is known, Zehner said. A tarpaulin now covers the exposed remains of the individual on the Iberville Street side of the building. The second body is believed to be on the Rampart Street side, and crews will mark the location before the rubble is cleared to aid NOFD rescuers.

The emphasis will then be placed on taking down the steel superstructure that comprises the upper 10 floors of the 18-story building, Zehner said. This portion is considered the most vulnerable if a hurricane threatens the city, and the goal is to have it demolished by mid-July to early August, the engineer told council members. Once the large cranes used to deconstruct the steel structure are removed, the other side of Canal Street and the Uptown-bound side of Rampart Street can be reopened. Zehner said that should take place in mid-August. The Saenger Theatre, across Rampart from the Hard Rock, can continue to operate, according to the engineer, although performances at the venue have been canceled since the local onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

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