Officials say they are proceeding cautiously with the recovery of bodies at Hard Rock collapse site

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NEW ORLEANS - Emergency response officials with the City of New Orleans gave an update this afternoon on the plans to demolish the remains of the Hard Rock Hotel and recover of the bodies of the victims that are still buried under rubble.

Jose Ponce Arreola, Anthony Magrette, and Quinnyon J. Wimberly were all killed when the building collapsed on October 12.

The bodies of two victims have remained on the site, even as two massive cranes were demolished in a controlled explosion more than a week after the initial collapse.

NOFD chief Tim McConnell said they still don't know why the building collapsed, and that uncertainty is the main reason the process is moving so slowly at this stage.

"This is still a very dangerous building," McConnell said. "We have a building that partially collapsed, and it's still not known what caused it. Public safety continues to be our number one priority. We stabilized the building somewhat by bringing the cranes down, but we're still in a very dangerous situation."

Every aspect of the work moving forward has to be planned out by contractors and engineers, and each potential contractor creates a bid that will then be reviewed before approval.

Every every bid has to include the morbid element of removing the bodies of the two workers who are still trapped in the rubble of the building nearly three weeks after the collapse.

"The recovery of the victims, we've made that a priority for them, so any plan they have has to include whether it's even feasible to get the remains, and their plan has to address how they would go about doing that," McConnell said.

One body is buried under about 10 floors of rubble, and has been completely unaccessible so far, McConnell said, although recovery crews have an idea where the body is located.

The same is true for the other body, but it is located under even more rubble.

While the NOFD is on the scene at all times ensuring that the public safety issues are addressed, McConnell said the ultimate responsibility lies with the building's owners.

"The owners are responsible for mitigating this, and we will hold everybody accountable," he said. "But at the end of the day, it is a process that is going to take some time."


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