NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The New Orleans Fire Department insists that its search and rescue team did not leave a construction worker to die after the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in 2019.

NOFD Superintendent Roman Nelson and Captain Danny Simon, leader of the department’s Urban Search and Rescue, told WGNO that all three of the workers who were killed in the collapse were crushed by falling debris, and none of them lived long enough to be rescued.

The NOFD disputes the claim by the sister of one of the victims, that the search team used infrared technology that detected her brother’s heartbeat in the rubble. She also told WGNO that searchers “knew he was alive” but refused to try to get him out of the wreckage.

That’s a claim that Captain Simon says, “couldn’t be more untrue.”

A leader in emergency rescues with more than 30 years of experience, Simon says the NOFD does not have the technology to distinguish a living body from the debris.

Instead, Simon demonstrated the department’s thermal imaging capability, showing what it can, and cannot, detect. You can watch the demonstration in our video link, above.

According to Simon, the NOFD’s infrared camera is designed to help firefighters walk through smoke, but it cannot “see” through objects.

NOFD Superintendent Roman Nelson told WGNO that setting the record straight is important for the victims’ families — and for the members of the NOFD.

“The mental stress is very severe,” said Nelson, because firefighters always wonder, “could I have done more — did I do everything I could?”

At the collapse of the Hard Rock, Nelson said, “we know that they did.”

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