OSHA Assigns Blame in Report on Hard Rock Collapse
NEW ORLEANS – Anger over the unresolved Hard Rock Hotel collapse has been set aside for a month as the city’s attention has been fixed on the escalating coronavirus pandemic, but the daily paper broke news today that will help clarify one of the biggest questions related to the incident: who is to blame?
The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate reported that it has seen the findings of a long-awaited report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to the paper, the report assigns most of the blame to Heaslip Engineering LLC, which is accused of “willful” and “serious” violations that led to the partial collapse and the death of three construction workers. (Two bodies remain on site because authorities deemed it was too dangerous to remove them.) The report finds that there were design problems with beams and other load-bearing structures that caused structural instability and led to the Oct. 12 disaster.
An attorney representing Heaslip Engineering strongly rejected OSHA’s findings.
“Heaslip Engineering has an impeccable record and reputation for providing quality engineering services on hundreds of projects over two decades,” said Kelly E. Theard of Deutsch Kerrigan, a litigation defense law firm. “Our firm has reviewed the citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and adamantly disputes the findings. We believe OSHA’s conclusions are unwarranted, not supported by the facts and beyond the jurisdiction of OSHA’s statutory authority. Heaslip unequivocally denies any ‘willful’ or ‘serious’ wrongdoing, and will vigorously contest all of the citations through the procedures required by OSHA.”
Suncoast Projects, a steel contractor, is allegedly accused of violations that harmed the building’s structural integrity. And Citadel Builders, a 1031 partner that was also a contractor on the project, was “accused of failing to provide exits and stairwells for workers and for failing to have drawings or plans available on the site,” according to The Times Picayune story.
Meanwhile, there’s still no clear plan to bring down the building and re-open the section of Canal Street near the intersection of Canal and Rampart. The building’s developer, 1031 Canal, wants to take the unstable structure down piece by piece. The city, meanwhile, prefers an implosion plan.
This story has been updated to include a response from the attorneys for Heaslip Engineering.