NEW ORLEANS — Contractors have not been able to recover either of two remaining bodies from the wreckage of a hotel that partly collapsed during construction last year, and they don't know when they'll be able to do so, New Orleans officials said Friday.
Their inability to say when they might be able to reach the bodies of Quinnyon Wimberly and Jose Ponce Arreola is disconcerting and significant, Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said during a livestreamed news conference.
McConnell had said on Monday that contractors hoped to remove one body by the end of this week and the other next week.
McConnell said weather has caused some delays but the biggest problem appears to be that contractors haven't been able to obtain a robot needed to remove debris dangling from what were being built as the Hard Rock Hotel's top floors. He was first told Wednesday about problems getting the robot, and the men's families were told that day, he said.
"We were informed as late as Tuesday they believed recovery would still happen at the end of this week," he said during a livestreamed news conference.
McConnell said he did not know whether contractors can meet an early October deadline for all demolition at the hotel, where parts of the top 10 of 18 floors collapsed Oct. 12.
The site will be evacuated if a tropical storm approaches, he said.
Wimberly's body is on the 11th floor of wreckage that must be removed floor by floor and Ponce Arreola's is under a pile of rubble on the deck of the eighth floor, McConnell said Monday.
The body of a third victim, Anthony Magrette, was recovered shortly after the accident. Wimberly's and Ponce Arreola's bodies remained in the wreckage as the city and building developer argued about how best to bring the rest of the building down.