The fell down Hard rock Hotel site on Rampart Street through a statue and a overcome in St. Louis Cemetery Number One in the foreground. (Photo by David Grunfeld, The brand-new Orleans Advocate)


NEW orleans - steel beams sustaining the 16th floor of the ill-fated hard Rock Hotel project in downtown new Orleans were so “grossly underdesigned” the the deadly collapse the the unfinished building “was wait to happen,” follow to one unreleased OSHA engineering report.

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Sources with understanding of the federal investigation provided WWL-TV through details from an engineering review by the U.S. Job-related Safety and also Health management that was created last year yet never disclosed, not even to olions Parish prosecutors considering feasible criminal negligence charges.

 the resources said, increasing questions around how the style was approved.


Allegations that undersized stole beams contributed to the building’s failure on Oct. 12, 2019, space not new. Yet WWL-TV has discovered brand-new details about why part beam and also column sizes were reduced, and to what extent, through sifting through thousands of construction documents collected in polite lawsuits stemming indigenous the collapse.


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An investigation into the city"s building inspectors shows inequalities in inspections at the The tough Rock Hotel construction site. (Photo by chris Granger, The brand-new Orleans Advocate)


The documents show the owner of the task wanted a 205-foot structure with lofty penthouse ceilings, a pool deck and a rooftop bar, yet the alters he ordered in in march 2018 would have actually exceeded the city’s 190-foot height restriction.

So, the architecture team obtained creative. Quite than seek one more variance to raise the roof through 15 feet, interior project documents display the developers kept a 190-foot building and made room for higher ceilings by reducing the dimension of steel beams supporting the 17th and 18th floors.

Independent engineers who the evaluation blueprints and also other construction documents for WWL-TV stated the 2018 changes to the structural stole of the structure could have added to its collapse, which crushed 3 workers come death and injured number of others.

Michael Bradbury, a structural engineer who has designed stole buildings and reviewed high-rise projects for the cities of Denver and also Austin, dubbed the change to diluent beams and columns a “very far-reaching discovery” that can be a “smoking gun” in pending criminal investigations.

“It tells me that they to be trying to store within the simple structure and also trying to use much shallower beams and also much smaller sized columns to store within that height,” Bradbury said. “Nobody confirm to check out whether or not the beams they placed in took the (bending force) indigenous the deck on those upper floors, which I think would have actually … been among the causes of the collapse due to the fact that they overloaded the structure.”


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By utilizing thinner steel beams buttressing the floor above, the ceilings can be raised, permitting for much more headroom below.

Blueprints from early 2018 dubbed for 21-inch-thick beams. But after the owner directed modifications to the ceiling heights, the floor plans on the 16th and 17th floors adjusted to present 10-inch-thick beams, enabling an extra 11 inches of ceiling clearance.

Walter Zehner, a neighborhood structural technician hired by the owner, 1031 Canal Development, stated the changes to the dimension of beams under the 17th and 18th floors did not reason the collapse. He claimed the beams under the 16th floor did, and also they were 3 times too tiny all along.

“The beams top top the 16th floor to be the very same size as the people on all the floors below,” that said. “It was carrying its own floor, add to the two extr floors over and the roof. So, castle were choose 300% overstressed, based upon my calculations.”

The architecture team to plan to balance out the impact of thinner beams by adding more steel columns, according to notes on construction documents from the spring of 2018. Yet plans date Oct. 11, 2019 -- the critical blueprints the construction team had distributed prior to the building collapsed the next day -- only referred to as for one extr column along the Rampart Street edge on the optimal floors.

That provided them 12 columns there, rather of 11. Bradbury stated he to be “shocked to view how few columns castle added,” offered that his load calculations confirmed they would have needed at least 24 columns that that dimension to correctly support the floors above.

And favor the beams running horizontally under the floors, the columns likewise ended up substantially smaller 보다 what was in the original plans. Every 12 the the columns installed along the Rampart Street leaf that fell down were W6x20s – an interpretation they to be 6 inches large with a weight of 20 pounds every foot. By contrast, the 11 columns shown in the original plans were every W10x49s -- 10 inches broad and 49 pounds every foot.

Bradbury calculate the W6X20 columns installed at the difficult Rock site had one-eighth the stiffness the the columns initially proposed.

“That is a big problem,” the said.


Construction crews poured the last heavy concrete floor on peak of those columns ~ above Oct. 5, 2019. A worker took video of short-term shoring poles buckling under those floors top top Oct. 10. And also two work after that, those floors pancaked.

The collapse began at the finish of a curved balcony along Rampart Street, just in prior of a tower crane some 75 feet indigenous the corner of Rampart and also Iberville streets. That northwest edge of the building caved in first, before the concrete and also steel cascaded ago to the southwest edge at Rampart and also Canal.

Bradbury stated the owner requested details changes and may have applied pressure to obtain the project done without additional delays. Yet he claimed the duty for doing so safely at some point lies through the technician of document who authorized the changes.

“The engineer has to be held accountable in this case since the contractor builds what"s on the approved plans or on the RFI (a paper where builders can request and also receive information). They"re not engineers,” he said. “That"s what he"s responsible for, the engineer, is to make sure it doesn"t fall down.”

OSHA has already issued violations versus the technician of record, Heaslip Engineering, and the stole contractor, Hub Steel.

The citations OSHA issued against Heaslip encompass a “serious violation” the alleges "floor beams top top the 16th floor to be under-designed" for the loads they would have to support. They additionally include a “willful violation” alleging “structural steel connections were inadequately designed, the review or approved, affecting the structure integrity that the connections.”

The latter violation proclaimed the engineer need to “ensure the number and also size of bolts because that the connection is designed to meet or exceed the anticipated loads.”

Sources with understanding of the OSHA examination said the agency’s engineer discovered some feet for heavy bolts to connect beams and also columns didn’t enhance up, so crews welded them instead.

Some that the photos obtained by WWL-TV also show handwritten notes on the plans in ~ the building site that indicate some that the prefabricated steel beams were much shorter than what the plans dubbed for.

OSHA authorize a different violation against Hub stole alleging "steel beams ~ above the 16th floor to be not linked to columns on the 15th floor" in accordance v the code and "did not fulfill the specified fill requirements."

Heaslip and also Hub Steel are both contesting the violations.

Orleans Parish district Attorney Jason Williams states he wants OSHA"s complete report, so he can document possible criminal charges against those who led to the collapse. But OSHA has decreased to relax that report, even to Williams’ prosecutors, until all appeals in the case have to be heard.

Heaslip"s appeal, for one, won"t be heard till July 26, 2022.

An attorney for the developer, 1031 Canal Development, defended the aesthetic transforms lead partner Mohan Kailas directed in 2018 and also placed the blame for the structural failure squarely top top Heaslip and also Hub Steel.

“Like any developer top top a project, the owner asked for that details aesthetic alters be made,” lawyer Paul Thibodeaux stated in a statement to WWL-TV. “Those aesthetic changes did not cause the building to collapse. At every times, ownership relied on skilled professionals, consisting of Heaslip Engineering and Hub Steel, to identify the means and approaches to safely construct the building, including specifying the dimension and type of every beams, columns and connections.”

Thibodeaux said OSHA has never implicated the owner in any of the structural failures, and sources with knowledge of the investigation evidenced to WWL-TV that OSHA has not discovered Kailas was responsible.

“At no suggest did Heaslip, Hub steel or anyone rather raise come ownership any concerns about the building’s structure integrity,” Thibodeaux added.

In solution to specific questions around the structural steel transforms his certain approved, James Heaslip sent out WWL-TV the very same statement he has actually previously sent.

"We have denied and are contesting all allegations of fault and negligence asserted in the legal proceedings related to the tough Rock Hotel collapse, and we was standing behind ours company"s track record of making projects that fulfill applicable design standards,” Heaslip said.

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Hub steel officials and the company’s lawyer did no respond come requests because that comment.