Drones Get a Clear View of the Tragic Crane Disaster in New Orleans

Earlier this month, the city of New Orleans was the victim of yet another tragedy.  The city proved it’s resilience after completely rebuilding in the wake of the mass destruction left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  It has been almost 15 years since that disastrous storm, and much of the city shows little signs of damage today.  Homes, schools, and businesses have been rebuilt and life has gone back to normal.  The city sees more visitors to it’s numerous hotels than ever before.  In February of 2018 a new hotel announced it’s plans to begin construction in New Orleans.  As stated on their website, “With a presence in more than 75 countries across the globe, Hard Rock International is expanding its hotel portfolio into the historic French Quarter and New Orleans Theater District with plans to open Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans and the Residences at the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans.”

Construction on the hotel has been under way since then.  The plans called for eighteen stories of hotel suites, residential condos, parking, restaurants, and other high end amenities.  But now everything has come to a stop.  On October 12th a crane positioned on the roof of the partially constructed building came crashing down.  As the crane toppled it demolished a large portion of the building killing and trapping three workers inside and sending many more to the hospital.  Once the dust and debris had settled drones were used to get a clear view of the damage left behind.

Local photographer Brandon Knox got his drone out to film what was going on.  As the video starts you see the broken building in the distance, rising above the rest of the city.  Sirens wailing in the background (edited in artificially) add to the surreal scene being captured by the drone as it slowly approaches the building.  In the video you can see that two of the massive cranes are still erect on the roof of the building.  However, the entire front face of the hotel has collapsed like a house of cards.  Layer after layer of the multi story structure draping over themselves and down to the street below.  The footage Brandon shot with his drone was picked up by a local news station, WWL-TV.

The process of cleaning up the mess left behind will be a massive project.  But the first and most important thing the city needed to have done was to make sure the area was safe and recover the bodies trapped inside.  Police said they could see two of the three missing workers, but because of how the building crumbled they were unable to get to them.  The building is believed to be stable, but only partially so.  The biggest safety concern was towards the stability of the remaining cranes.  As New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell said about the cranes, they were “more damaged than we thought.”  This meant that to stabilize the building for a search crew to begin looking for the bodies the cranes had to come down.

In the middle of the afternoon on the 20th, engineers ran a controlled demolition of the two cranes with explosives.  Videos shot from multiply angles show the blasts and the resulting crash of the two cranes.  Once the debris is cleared and the site is declared safe Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the the recovery of the missing bodies will be the first priority tackled.  It is not clear yet as to how this mission, along with the cleanup process will be handled.  But as Brandon Knox’s drone footage, and several other local photographers have made abundantly clear, using drones to get a clear view of the situation at hand from a safe distance could be a critical too


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