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Workers Blame Hard Rock Collapse on Concrete

The Mayor is fast tracking an implosion as experts say it will be dangerous and destroy all evidence

Kris LaGrange's picture
Nov 19, 2019

A month after the fateful collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans, workers are speaking out about the criminal acts of negligence that caused the building to collapse.

Just days after the building collapse, a video emerged showing the beams bowing and a collapse imminent. The video was taken just days before the collapse. Steelworker Baltor Bermudez told Channel 4 WWL-TV, that he was working on the building when the collapse happened and was concerned that Citadel Builders removed the post shores, which act as supports for the concrete, too soon after the concrete was poured. Bermudez said that the supports need to be in place for three weeks after the concrete is poured. This is supported by the American Concrete Institutes standards which says that 20ft clear spans between structural supports are recommended to be in place for 21 days, but for at least a minimum of 14 days. Bermudez says that at the Hard Rock, the 18th floor was poured on Friday, October 4th and two days later, on Monday, October 6th, most post shores were removed. The building collapsed on Saturday, October 12th.  This is backed up by the video, taken just 6 days after the concrete was poured, shows limited post shores and the ones that were still there looked like they were about the collapse. Pictures from after the collapse also show numerous post shores on the lower floors, but almost none on the upper collapsed parts.

This new evidence makes it all the more important to take down the building in a safe way that preserves the evidence. Yet Mayor LaToya Cantrell seems fixated on imploding the building. “After she said she wanted it brought to the ground, I got the feeling the Mayor only wanted to see it imploded,” said John Jepsen, a structural shoring, lifting, and stabilization expert for Jepsen Inc.

Jepsen was brought in from Minneapolis to look at the site and come up with a proposal to shore the building up and then demolish it. Jepsen told UCOMM that his company proposed a plan to safely demo the building with little impact on the surrounding neighborhood. He said that his plan would have allowed for the preservation of most of the building materials. Jepsen brought two engineers with him to the site and both were nervous about using an implosion to take down the building.

Even with these concerns, Mayor Cantrell decided to approve the plan to implode the structure. The implosion and cleanup will take place over nine weeks. Jepsen also expressed concern about the damage that the implosion would cause, saying that the post-tension concrete structure below the collapse was in good condition with minor damage that could be fixed. He also said the implosion plan had no way of collecting the bodies of the deceased workers.

While Cantrell claims to be meeting with top experts and is using this as an opportunity to push for more women in STEM, she seems not to be listening. Jepsen said that in his talks with Citadel, he believed that they wanted to do the right thing, but where being overruled by Cantrell. This is surprising considering that Citadel has the most to lose from the preservation of the building. If it is found that Citadel pulled the post shores out too early, they could be held criminally liable for the deaths.

While Cantrell surely wants to score political points with an impressive implosion, all it will be is a distraction. Three families still lost their family members, millions of dollars in business have been lost over the past month, and the evidence to any wrongdoing will be reduced to rubble, but Cantrell will get her big implosion on CNN.

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