Hard Rock construction team was running late by fatal collapse, documents show

But while these documents appear to show a hurry-up attitude, it isn’t clear if they contributed in any way to the disaster.

NEW ORLEANS — Emails and documents obtained by WWL-TV show the construction team at the Hard Rock Hotel was under pressure to top out the building in the weeks leading up to Oct. 12, 2019, when the partially built 18-story structure collapsed.

Detailed, printed minutes of a contractors’ meeting on Sept. 17, 2019, state that the concrete on the 18th floor rooftop must be poured by the end of September.

“Every effort must be made to make this happen,” the document says.

As it turned out, the final concrete pour wasn’t done until Oct. 5, a week before the upper floors buckled.

In another email Sept. 24, the project manager for prime contractor Citadel Builders writes to one of the project engineers with Heaslip Engineering, “We don’t have time for the engineering calculations” for pre-fabricated metal framing on the rooftop.

The calculations they were discussing were for cold-formed metal joists scheduled to be installed on the rooftop for what was supposed to be a bar and pool deck.

But while these documents appear to show a hurry-up attitude, it isn’t clear if they contributed in any way to the disaster. On the first anniversary of the collapse Monday, the owner of the ill-fated project, 1031 Canal Development, filed a lawsuit against Citadel and 18 of its subcontractors, including Heaslip, which 1031 alleged may have failed to perform critical engineering calculations.

But the person who asked for the calculations in the case of the pre-fabricated metal framing, Andy Anderson from subcontractor King Co., told WWL-TV in an interview that the roof joists referenced in the Sept. 24 email were not on site when the building collapsed and would not have affected the building’s stability if they had been.

“To be clear, the issues discussed in the referenced emails had nothing to do with the structural stability of the building or the collapse,” Anderson said.

The Hard Rock Hotel collapse killed three workers and injured dozens of others. Workers, neighboring businesses and the City of New Orleans have filed lawsuits against 1031 Canal Development and the contractors and subcontractors.

The project owners, 1031 Canal Development, led by majority owner Mohan Kailas, filed their own suit on the anniversary of the collapse, alleging Citadel Builders and 18 subcontractors were at fault and that Citadel failed to inform 1031 about structural stability problems.

The emails obtained by WWL-TV show Kailas did get involved in several construction decisions, although none that appeared to deal with the building’s structural integrity.

In February 2019, for instance, a Citadel project manager wrote about “huge increases in costs” with drywall, and a Kailas Company employees responded: “I need to get with Mr. Mohan first to see what he wants to keep and to remove.”

And in June, another Kailas employee sent an email to leaders of the construction team ordering: “Until further notice do not continue construction on the condo model unit, focus on the mock-up rooms.”

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