City Council Committee grills engineer on body recovery at Hard Rock collapse site

Shortest phase of plan will take about two weeks in June

Thomas Perumean
May 29, 2020 - 6:35 am

Walter Zehner, the structural engineer in charge of planning and executing the plan to ultimately reduce the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel structure addressed the Joint governmental affairs-economic development committee. 

Zehner laid out his four-phase plan and was peppered with questions for details from committee members about Phase B, the plan for the recovery of the two bodies entombed in the collapse. 

“Phase B is to remove the existing debris that has fallen on the Rampart Street side and to recover the two remains,” Zehner testified.

Zehner talked at length on the subject to explain how this will be done:  “That is supposed to last about a week or two and once the remains are recovered, then we can go to Phase C.”

 “The idea is to remove enough of the debris to reach both of the remains,” Zehner says.  “And then the City Fire Rescue Team is the one that will go in there and remove the remains of the two bodies.”

Councilmember Helena Moreno wanted Zehner to go into detail about the recovery effort:  “How do we do this to respect the two lives lost?”

“The fire rescue team that’s going to do the actual extraction, they will probably bring up a rescue basket as you would see on a helicopter,” Zehner answered. 

Zehner says once the bodies are located and uncovered, he expects the extraction to be performed in a relatively short amount of time:  “From talking to the fire rescue guys on-site, they think it’s going to take just a few hours for them to go in,” Zehner explains.  “They’ll be lifted up into there from buckets on a crane, so it’s not like they’ll be walking up through the building.”

Phase C is the physical removal of the ten-story steel structure above the eight-story concrete parking garage. 

“We’re trying to get the steel structure, which is the unstable part, down by the middle of July,” Zehner estimated.  “Phase D is going to take about a month and a half, because we’re breaking up the concrete structure and once again that’s a lot less risky than the steel structure.”

By mid-September, the lot should be cleared and demolition of the dangerous eyesore that has blocked Canal and Rampart for nearly a year will finally be gone. 

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