Hard Rock Collapse Exposes Negligent ABC Contractor
A video has emerged showing the building ready to collapse days before and the contractor did nothing to stop it
Nearly a week after the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel more details is emerging that the contractors had evidence that the building was in danger of collapsing two days earlier.
A video obtained by Randy Gaspard, a local concrete contractor, shows a walkthrough of the building on Thursday. In the video, an unnamed worker clearly shows structural issues in the high rise.
"Look, Papo, 'the best engineering!' Look at these large stretches (between supports) and s--t beams! (unintelligible) They're already to the point of breaking," the worker says in Spanish in the video.
"Look at how it's bent already! They couldn't remove it because it's too bent and it has too much pressure. The huge spaces without beams – look! What a very s--t structure these architects and engineers are building! … This is seriously bad, Papa!"
Another foreman who was working on the project as a subcontractor told CBS News the contractors failed to properly install the metal pan that concrete is poured into for the building's floors.
That corrugated metal decking was positioned differently along the edge of the building above one street than elsewhere on the building. Metal sheets were meant to overlap, but instead were installed perpendicularly, the worker said -- something he suspected caused a "shearing point" and may have contributed to the collapse.
Others are pointing to a pool that was lifted onto the roof just hours before the collapse. Accusations are that the company didn’t wait long enough to allow the concrete to cure and that the added weight of the pool, drainage, and water was too much for the structure. However, this claim has been debunked. Check out UCOMM Blog for an official statement from the pool company.
UCOMM has also received information that the contractors on the project, Citadel Builders, All-Star Electric and King Company Partners were a part of the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). This is a group that lobbies both federally and locally against stronger safety laws, training for workers, and unions. Dangerous work like this would be expected from an ABC contractor.
While UCOMM previously reported that Citadel had pleaded no contest to hiring unlicensed workers, this collapse has shed a light on the developer of the project Kailias Companies. The developer has a long history in New Orleans and most of it hasn’t been good. In 2017, at a Kailias Property called Executive Plaza, a man was killed when he fell down an elevator shaft while trying to escape a broken elevator. According to people at the building, the elevators had been broken for months and the company had not fixed it. Another source told UCOMM that Kailias also owned a movie theatre in New Orleans East that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Instead of rebuilding like much of the city did, Kailias let it sit there, rotting away for nearly 15 years until it was finally destroyed earlier this year. He described the company as “Bad all the way through.”
It has also come to light that Praveen Kailas, the son of Kailias owner Mohan Kailas, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to theft of government funds and conspiracy to commit theft of government funds. The charges stemmed from an overbilling scheme that stole money from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded, Louisiana Road Home’s Small Rental Property Program (SRPP). While Praveen was not currently working on the Hard Rock project, he had played a critical role in 2011, getting the City Council to grant the waiver that allowed Kailas to build up to 200 feet. Although Mohan was not charged in the case, Judge Sarah Vance stated at sentencing that Mohan had let his son take the fall for him.
Kailias aren’t the only ones with legal problems. Just a few weeks before the building collapse, the New Orleans permitting department was raided by federal investigators. This came one month after city inspector Kevin Richardson was indicted on corruption charges. While there has been no direct link between Kailias and illegal activity at the permitting department, the investigation is ongoing and has been described as far-reaching. Reports state that one of the crimes the feds are investigating are inspectors taking payouts from developers.
As the investigation into the negligence of the developers and contractors continues, New Orleans is facing a more immediate concern. Nearly a week after the collapse, the building is still not secured, and a tropical storm is bearing down on the city. With Citadel refusing to allow skilled union workers on the site to help secure the building and the damaged cranes, further collapse is possible. Let’s just hope no one else gets hurt or killed from Kailias and Citadel’s corner-cutting ways.