New Orleans: Protesters demand action on damaged hotel

Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dozens of protesters marched from the site of the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel on the edge of the French Quarter to City Hall on Friday, demanding that something be done about the hotel and that the two bodies still inside be recovered.

The Hard Rock Hotel was under construction when it partially collapsed on Oct. 12, sending plumes of dust into the air, killing three people and injuring dozens.

The bodies of two of the three workers who died are still inside what is left of the building, which city officials have decided to take down through implosion in March.

People in the city were outraged earlier this week when a tarp at the site shifted, exposing the remains of one of the workers who died. The tarp has since been replaced but it sparked cries for greater accountability.

“We have two people that are trapped inside that building. Right now their families have no closure. They’re exposed,” said Trey Monaghan, who organized the Friday protest. “It’s horrible what’s happened.”

Dozens of people stood in front of City Hall, holding signs. One sign read , “Respect the Families, Return the Bodies,” while another said “Shame!” and called out the builders as well as New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

City Council member Jason Williams also addressed the crowd, specifically questioning why a worker who had been in the building when it collapsed was later deported.

Border Patrol officers arrested Ramirez Palma two days after he fell several stories as the upper floors of the hotel project collapsed. Workplace safety advocates had hoped he could remain in the United States to facilitate the federal investigation of the collapse.

“It sends a message to other witnesses who could potentially be whistle-blowers to tell us what happened there to remain silent. That is not fair,” Williams told the crowd.

A week after the hotel partially collapsed, officials used controlled demolitions to bring down two cranes that had been leaning precariously over the building’s remains. But coming up with a plan to demolish the rest of the building , which is situated on a central commercial corridor, has been more problematic. The current plan is to bring the building down in a controlled implosion sometime in mid-March.

Implosion had been considered, then rejected in the weeks after the collapse. But earlier this month officials said the implosion plan was back on. It was deemed safer than having workers dismantle the structure.

When the implosion plan was announced, Cantrell said the decision was made in consultation with the project owners, insurers and families of the two workers whose remains have not yet been recovered. She said the new plan means the remains, once recovered, will be more quickly turned over to the families.

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