The chances of a missing worker’s survival after a hotel collapse are diminishing, and New Orleans officials shifted their efforts Wednesday from rescue to recovery mode.
The shift comes ahead of a possible tropical storm, Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell told reporters.
One worker was previously confirmed dead inside the rubble at the edge of the city’s historic French Quarter, but crews have not been able to recover the body. Another worker is still missing, though McConnell said chances of his survival will be considered nearly “zero” if no sign of him turned up by Wednesday night.
The men still in the building, which was under construction, have been identified as Quinnyon Wimberly, 36, and Jose Ponce Arreola, 63. The workers’ families have been notified.
“Our hearts go out to the families,” McConnell said.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell said realizing the need to move to recovery did not come easy to the city. “They matter to us … and we are going to do everything we can to retrieve (them) with dignity and respect,” she said.
Officials have not said who is the missing worker or who is the deceased, though they have a good idea of where in the building the deceased man is located. McConnell has repeatedly said that sophisticated listening and infrared equipment — as well as search dogs — have not detected any signs of life in the rubble, with search efforts now focusing on top floors that pancaked during the collapse.
The body of worker Anthony Magrette, 49, of Gretna, was recovered Sunday from the ruins.
A large section of the 18-story Hard Rock Hotel collapsed Saturday . Officials said the possibility of further collapse remains a concern. A 50% chance of a tropical system at least passing near the region could complicate efforts to stabilize the ruins as well as two gigantic, badly damaged cranes.
Officials said they are still considering several options for how to safely secure the cranes, including possibly using explosives and demolition to get them to collapse in on themselves.
McConnell said that the experts on site have experience in these types of demolitions, but the positioning of the building in a historic neighborhood complicates efforts.