Body left in Hard Rock Hotel collapse exposed after tarp falls off, then re-covered; Friday protest planned at City Hall

Hard Rock Hotel collapse site. Photo: Infrogmation | Flickr CC

The body of a victim killed by the Hard Rock Hotel collapse was re-covered by a tarp by New Orleans city crews Wednesday after the previous one blew off and exposed the remains.

Photos of the body showing its legs dangling off the side of the collapsed portion of the hotel emerged on social media earlier this week, sparking outrage.

The hotel partially collapsed on the morning of Oct. 12, killing Anthony Magrette, 49; Quinnyon Wimberly, 36; and Jose Ponce Arreola, 63; and injuring dozens more.

The bodies of Wimberly and Arreola are still trapped inside.

In a Facebook post on Jan. 22, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the conditions of the collapse have deteriorated since October, making access to the remains “extremely difficult and very dangerous.”

She added that the body of one victim is embedded in highly unstable debris 11 stories above street level and adjusting the tarp to re-cover the body again a “significant safety challenge.”

A new, yellow-colored tarp was placed over the body by city crews on the same day, according to WVUE.

Shortly before the body was uncovered, Cantrell took to social media to scold those who took pictures of the exposed body.

The outrage was shared across social media, except it was directed at Cantrell and other officials, as well as the owner of the collapsed site, Mohan Kailas.

A protest reportedly organized by Trey Monaghan will organize in front of the collapse site near the corner of Canal and North Rampart streets Friday afternoon, according to The Gambit, and march to City Hall. The protest starts at 3 p.m.

WGNO reported that 1031 Canal Development LLC, which owns the Hard Rock property, said the city has control of the site.

During a Jan. 17 press conference, Cantrell said the building could be demolished as early as March and added that retrieving the trapped bodies is her “top priority.”

D.H. Griffin Companies will be managing the demolition of the hotel, Cantrell said, and is “more than confident” that the contractor can safely implode the building.

City Council postpones January meetings by one week due to cyberattack recovery

New Orleans City Hall. Bart Everson | CC Flickr

The New Orleans City Council postponed both of its January meetings by one week due to the ongoing recovery from a December cyberattack, Councilwoman Helena Moreno said on Monday.

The meetings that were scheduled for Jan. 9 and Jan. 23 will instead be held on Jan. 16 and Jan. 30, respectively.

“We are delaying our regular meetings this month by one week to help give staff more time to prepare material and documents in order to give the public the council meeting they expect,” Moreno said in an emailed statement.

The attack, which occurred on Dec. 13, affected more than 4,000 of the city’s computers and devices, including the city council’s, and severely disrupted the city’s ability to conduct business over the internet and phone.

The attack is under investigation.

By Dec. 23, half of the city’s computers were re-imaged partly due to the assistance of nearly 90 volunteers helping the Information Technology and Innovation team in the response effort, said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

About 15 percent of devices that were affected were deemed damaged and put aside, Cantrell said.

Cantrell estimated the recovery at $792,000, which doesn’t include the cost of replacing some equipment, adding that the total cost may double.

Little by little, nola.gov is coming back online, although access to critical documents and information is still limited for many city departments, boards and agencies, Moreno said.

The City Council will meet briefly on Thursday morning in a special meeting to amend the official calendar and put land use and other legal deadlines on hold due to the “ongoing state of emergency,” Moreno said.

Residents can still make 3-1-1 requests for service; pay sales, use, and parking taxes; and pay parking and camera tickets.

Council offices are open for regular business this week, although access to official emails and documents may be limited, Moreno added.

Regular phone numbers and temporary email addresses have been posted on nola.gov for all council-related inquiries.

The city will continue to release updates and information via Facebook and @NOLACityCouncil on Twitter.