UPDATE: 1 dead, 3 missing, 18 hurt after Hard Rock Hotel collapses on Canal Street


NEW ORLEANS (WWL)- UPDATE: One person was killed and three others were missing after a part of the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed without warning on Saturday morning.

At least 18 other people were treated for injuries, authorities said.

City leaders closed a large part of the area and were evacuating other buildings near Canal and North Rampart streets because of concerns that more of the Hard Rock, which was still under construction, could fall.

“It is still very unstable,” New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell said of the building.

ORIGINAL: Several construction workers had to run to safety on Saturday morning as a large portion of the Hard Rock Hotel, which has been under construction for the last several months, came crashing down suddenly.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse. New Orleans EMS rushed at least three people to a hospital, The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate reported.

Eyewitness video provided to WWL-TV shows the moment collapse began around 9 a.m.

Upper floors began to fall on top of each other before the Basin Street side of the building fell to the ground below. Two large cranes, being used to construct the building, could be seen swaying after the collapse.

Another eyewitness video showed other workers on upper floors climb down ladders to try to get to safety after the initial collapse stopped. A smaller piece of the building fell about 10:45 a.m.

On the ground, officials pushed a gathering crowd back from the site, and Gov. John Bel Edwards was reportedly on his way to the scene, which was littered with debris, including concrete and mangled steel.

One man in a safety vest sat on the curb and appeared to hold the side of his head while wincing.

Both sides of Canal Street were cordoned off to keep people away from the building. A large steel beam, hoisted up by one of the cranes, swayed in the air above the portion of the building that collapsed.

The corner where it was under construction was for decades was home to a Woolworth’s.

The store, which was the site of lunch counter sit-ins during the civil rights movement, closed years ago, and the building remained vacant until it was demolished in 2014.

Plans to build a new structure on the site had been in the works since at least 2007, when developer Mohan Kailas bought the building for $3.6 million after plans for another redevelopment project fell through.

That project came to a halt in 2013 when Praveen Kailas pleaded guilty to fraudulently billing a state Katrina recovery program.

Praveen Kailas, the son of Mohan Kailas, had been the public face of the project before pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of government funds and one count of theft of government funds. The theft scheme was exposed by WWL-TV in 2012, leading directly to the federal criminal investigation.

Praveen Kailas served almost two years in federal prison.

Kailas Cos. remains a partner in the Hard Rock project. Crews recently began work at the corner.

Prior iterations of the project raised concerns that the building’s modern appearance would clash with the French Quarter, while others argued it would not pay enough respect to the site’s ties to the civil rights movement.

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