Rescuers resumed searching Monday for a worker trapped in rubble after a deadly construction collapse in New Orleans, officials said, but the building’s instability remains a dangerous situation.
“It is still a very, very dangerous building, a dangerous situation,” New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell said Monday. “That tower is still heavily damaged and unsecured, and we’re a long way from being in a safe mode.”
As engineers worked to stabilize the building, search dogs went through the site searching for the missing worker, McConnell said. They entered the building five times Monday, McConnell said.
Two people were killed in Saturday’s collapse and at least 30 people were hospitalized, authorities said. All but one of the injured have been discharged, they said.
The Orleans Parish Coroner’s office on Monday identified one of the dead as Anthony Floyd Magrette, 49. Crews were still working to remove the second body, Mayor LaToya Cantrell told reporters Sunday evening.
Video footage of the building crashing to the ground shows workers emerging from a cloud of dust after the building’s upper floors collapse, leaving debris littering the street below.
The mayor visited the last hospitalized victim at University Medical Center, Cantrell said. He is in stable condition after undergoing surgery on his femur Saturday, his family is en route to New Orleans and he is “in the best of spirits that he can be in,” the mayor said.
“People matter, and he was an employee on the eighth floor. Happened very fast,” Cantrell said. “As he was talking to me, tears were, of course, in his eyes.”
Rescue operation is top priority
Crews had suspended the search for the missing worker, but McConnell said Sunday that teams had entered multiple times into the work site today as the search continued.
“Until we know different, we will stay in the rescue mode,” he said. “Obviously, life safety is always our No. 1 priority.”
A crane was brought in early Sunday to help stabilize the structure and facilitate response operations.
Engineers determined that additional cranes brought in Monday were inadequate and not safe to use, McConnell said Monday afternoon. Larger equipment may arrive as early as Monday night, he said.
The crane brought in Sunday was on a job site in Baton Rouge, and it received a special police escort to New Orleans, McConnell said. It generally takes three hours to erect a crane, which weighs about 110 tons, he said.
Several engineers have also been brought in, including one who traveled from Germany.
More than 100 people were working on the soon-to-be Hard Rock Hotel near the city’s historic French Quarter when the building gave way, Citadel Builders spokesman Brian Trascher said in a statement.
Authorities have not said what caused the collapse, but Cantrell promised a “relentless” investigation into the incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would join the probe once rescue efforts were complete, she said.
Two dead, at least 18 injured
Mandatory evacuations in the surrounding areas were issued Saturday as city officials said the building was stable but unsupported, CNN affiliate WDSU reported.
There was a strong possibility of further collapse, McConnell said Saturday. He compared Saturday’s damage to that of an earthquake.
A crane weighing several tons that was attached to the building was unstable and could also collapse, McConnell said.
The perimeter around the structure was expanded Monday because impending rain could add weight to it and cause shifting, McConnell said.
“Once we are confident that the tower crane can be secured as safely as possible, authorities will then be able to determine when and how to proceed with search and rescue/recovery,” Trascher said in a statement Monday.
“This situation is being handled much like a plane crash,” Trascher said, “in that rescue/recovery are the primary functions, followed by the search for physical and technical indicators that may provide clues to the cause.”