Recovery of bodies begins next week at Hard Rock Hotel site in New Orleans

Crews in New Orleans are expected to begin Monday the recovery of the bodies of two workers who died nine months ago when the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed during construction.

The structure on the edge of the French Quarter partially collapsed on October 12, 2019, killing three and injuring dozens. One body was recovered.

Recovery teams were unable to reach the bodies of 63-year-old Jose Ponce Arreola and 36-year-old Quinnyon Wimberly due to the instability of the collapsed structure.

The city and developers have been in discussion on how to safely remove the bodies, an operation expected to take several days, city spokesman Beau Tidwell said earlier this this week.

Crews began the process in June by removing some buildings near the hotel site for safety reasons. The next step involved removing one of the original cranes that was imploded on October 20.

Three new cranes were assembled on the streets around the site to help take down the original crane before workers turned to recovering the bodies, which are located between the 8th and 10th floors of the 18-story structure.

The outcry to recover the two bodies reignited in January after a tarp meant to conceal one of the bodies was blown away by the wind, exposing the body to the public.

Pictures of the victim’s legs sticking out of the twisted steel quickly began circulating on Twitter, prompting Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office to urge the public to stop sharing them.

The city has blamed the building’s instability for its delayed efforts.

“The condition of the building and the altitude above street level complicate efforts to replace the tarp, as they have prevented recovery thus far,” Cantrell’s office said in January.

The collapse and recovery efforts

Initial recovery efforts for the remaining bodies were delayed as winds caused two cranes towering over the construction site to move, raising concerns that it could cause more of the building to collapse.

Then on October 20, the two cranes were toppled with strategically placed explosives.

“We know that we are safer now than we have been in the past eight days,” Cantrell said at the time, with city officials noting that crews would restart their search for the two bodies.

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