2 people killed, 1 trapped inside Hard Rock Hotel that partially collapsed
Crews were feverishly working on Sunday to stabilize the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown New Orleans a day after the building partially collapsed, killing two construction workers, leaving a third trapped in the rubble and injuring 30 others, officials said.
New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell said at a news conference near the disaster site on Sunday that search-and-rescue crews were poised to reenter the building.
“Search and rescue continues to be our top priority at this time,” McConnell said.
He said the search of the building that had been under construction was halted overnight after conditions were deemed too dangerous to allow first responders to enter.
McConnell said a large crane was also damaged in the collapse and remained in a precarious position. He said a massive crane weighing 110 tons was trucked into the city overnight from Baton Rouge and will be used to help stabilize the building once it’s assembled.
Hazardous conditions, according to the chief, prevented search teams from recovering the bodies of the two construction workers killed when the upper floors of the building suddenly gave way and pancaked on one another. He said the identities of the dead construction workers and the one who remains missing have yet to be confirmed.
“This is not something you take lightly,” McConnell said of the search efforts. “Safety is the No. 1 thing. The last thing you want to do as you’re trying to rescue someone is lose someone else.”
Dr. Emily Nichols, director of Emergency Medical Services in New Orleans, said of the 30 people treated for injuries, only one remained hospitalized on Sunday.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she visited the injured worker late Saturday night at University Medical Center New Orleans. She said the worker, who is in stable condition, suffered a fractured femur and underwent surgery.
“He is in the best of spirits that he can be in,” Cantrell said. “He told me that it could have been worse. He said it happened very fast. He heard noise, looked around and moved very very quickly.”
Cantrell said the investigation into the collapse will get underway once everyone believed to have been inside the building at the time of the collapse is accounted for.
“After search and rescue, it will shift into a full-investigative mode and we will be relentless in those efforts moving forward,” Cantrell said.
She identified the Citadel Builders, based in Metairie, Louisiana, as the general contractor on the Hard Rock Hotel construction project. The 18-story, 350-room hotel near the city’s French Quarter and Theater District was scheduled to open in 2020.
Citadel Builders did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.
Cantrell said that according to preliminary information, all permits had been obtained to complete the building and that everything was “up to code.”
She said Citadel officials are cooperating and that the chief engineer on the project was scheduled to arrive on the scene Sunday afternoon and another top engineer for the company was flying in from Germany.
The collapse happened around 9:12 a.m. local time at Canal and North Rampart Streets, McConnell said. About 100 construction workers were on site when the collapse happened.
Officials said it appeared the collapse initially affected the sixth to eighth floors before damage spread throughout a large portion of the building.
Dramatic video of the incident showed parts of the building crashing into the street as debris billowed into the air.
Cantrell said that 10 surrounding buildings, including condominiums, were evacuated and that electricity and gasto those building remained turned off on Sunday. Nearby streets were closed to vehicles, according to NOLA Ready, the city’s emergency preparedness center.
The mayor said debris from the collapse caused extensive damage to roof of the historic Saenger Theater across the street, forcing the remaining performances of the musical “Wicked” to be canceled.
Hard Rock International said in a statement the company had “no involvement in the construction of the project” but extended its “deepest sympathies to victims of this tragic accident and to their loved ones and friends.”
ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway, Devin Vilacis and Matt Foster contributed to this report.