It’s been more than three months since the Hard Rock Hotel construction site collapsed in New Orleans. The crumbled building sticks out as an eyesore on the edge of the city’s historic French Quarter as Mardi Gras celebrations approach. But what’s even more horrific is that the bodies of two workers killed in the collapse have still not been recovered.
The victims are 63-year-old Jose Ponce Arreola and 36-year-old Quinnyon Wimberly.
The outcry to recover the two bodies reignited this week 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 amid the twisted steel quickly began circulating around Twitter, prompting Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office to urge the public to stop sharing them.
“To be clear: capturing or sharing images of the victims in such a condition is irresponsible, it is indefensible, and it is not who we are as New Orleanians,” a statement from Cantrell’s office read, adding, “we urge news outlets, residents, and social media users to have nothing to do with making a tragic situation needlessly worse.”
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 today’s statement.
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.
But it’s been more than three months since the collapse on October 12, and the bodies are still yet to be recovered.
For months, city officials have been contemplating back and forth on whether to implode the building or demolish it piece by piece.
Last week, city officials announced the building would be imploded in March.
“This is absolutely the safest way to take this down,” New Orleans Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell said.
Recovering the remains would be “the next step” after implosion, Cantrell said, but she noted that all parties, including the owner of the Hard Rock development and the victims’ families, agreed to the plan.
“I have assured the families that we will get their remains and that will be the next step… It’s removing our people, which has always been my top priority, Cantrell said.