Bodies of 2 victims still not recovered after Hard Rock Hotel collapse


NEW ORLEANS (CNN) — A New Orleans group is angry that two bodies remain buried in the rubble of the Hard Rock Hotel nearly three months after the collapse.

The New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice is asking for immediate action to recover the bodies.

Three people were killed and 30 injured in the early October collapse, but the building remains in ruins on the edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter. And now, more than three months after the collapse, there are still two bodies trapped in the rubble. Those of 63-year-old Jose Ponce Arreola and 36-year-old Quinnyon Wimberly.

“It’s virtually impossible right now. I mean, they are in the collapse. We’ve had experts from every field that we could find to come in here, and no one has been able to present us a safe plan to do it without the risk of losing, the building shifting and collapsing.” said Tim McConnell, Superintendent for the New Orleans Fire Department.

Public outcry reignited after a tarp that was supposed to be covering one of the remaining two bodies blew away in the wind, leaving part of a decomposing body exposed to the general public. The images hit social media, leading in part to protests over holding those responsible accountable.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell specifically pointed to the building’s instability as the reason for delay.

“Putting more people at risk, I just, I cannot live with that and will not support that,” Cantrell said.

It’s been a complicated clean up from the start, at one point involving strategic explosions to topple cranes officials feared could cause more damage.

According to the city, implosion in mid-March is now the next step for what’s left of the building and recovering the remains would be the next step afterward. It’s a plan, that according to Cantrell, was agreed to by the victims’ families.

By that March timeline, it will be more than a third of a year that the two construction workers have been buried under the rubble. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice is calling for accountability and action for the victims of the collapse. Among their demands are public hearings and new regulations.


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