A Deadly Reminder of the Hard Rock Collapse – It Just Keeps Getting Worse

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Veronika Lee, Editor in Chief

 

It’s not every day that city officials have to request individuals do not post pictures of the deceased. But after the championship games were said and done, and high winds came and went, that’s exactly what happened. Tarps tragically blew off the site of November’s Hard Rock flop, exposing the decaying body of one of the victims, Quinnyon Wimberly. New Orleans locals stormed Reddit with outpourings of care and concern – their photos seemed more confrontational towards city officials and construction company carelessness instead of being solely exploitative. 

 

The building infamously collapsed Oct. 12 of last year and there are no concrete plans to fix the site. Residents of nearby areas have been given time frames of March 2020 through January 2021, according to texts sent by city services. It stands to wonder how although no steps can be taken to clean up the site which has now experienced various inclement weather conditions how a tarp was able to be secured (albeit loosely) upon the body. 

 

Many locals and other city officials demand answers now. Most recently, Mayor Cantrell has stated she would like to wait to see what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will reveal in their April 2020 report. But Kalais Industries aren’t waiting to get their point across. On Monday, an attorney representing the development firm took to the airwaves of WWL Radio to deny the development firm’s culpability and ask that the public consider the role of structural engineers and the contractor. 

 

Dr. Marla K. Nelson, associate professor in the Department of Planning and Urban Studies at UNO says in cities developers always have a lot of power. She insists elected officials and developers need to learn how to improve working with one another.

 

“[City officials] make decisions to make the city a better place and that’s a hard thing to define,” she states. “Communities have different values and different needs. For developers it’s pretty clear cut – they want to build and maximize their profits. Sometimes you can get the business elite that can be very persuasive to our elected officials.”

 

Nelson, who teaches courses at UNO in urban development and finance, adds: “It seems to me the real concern is that people want someone to be held accountable for this collapse and want to know what those reasons are. There is tension now because of these images were circulated last week – there were bodies there. It jogs people memories that this didn’t just happen and we need to get to the bottom of this.”

 

A statement from City Spokesperson LaTonya Norton explained that conditions of the building and its high altitude make it difficult to conceal the remains of the victim, especially as winds continued to shift in last week’s tumultuous weather conditions. In response to memes and images circulating on social media featuring the deceased’s legs, the press secretary said, “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. Out of respect to the victims and their families, and in the name of basic common decency: we urge news outlets, residents, and social media users to have nothing to do with making a tragic situation needlessly worse.”

 

Those who have been following the story will note that ICE officials deported metal worker and material witness Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma, a native of Honduras who was injured in the collapse. The Hard Rock Collapse has affected the city and its residents in more ways than one – as Mardi Gras season quickly approaches, city residents question the light that an exposed corpse shines on our city. Notably, parade routes such as Endymion and Zulu will need to circumvent the area this year.

 

Last Friday, a protest was held on Rampart Street to draw attention to residents’ demand for answers. The story continues to develop daily. As of press time, a story by The Lens (thelensnola.org) revealed that Hard Rock developers provided almost $70k in political contributions to Mayor LaToya Cantrell and her political action committee, Action New Orleans. 

 

A view of the Hard Rock Collapse from the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 by Veronika Lee