Construction Site of New Visitors' Bureau in New Orleans Turns Deadly

One of the most beautiful streets in New Orleans' famed Garden District turned ugly yesterday afternoon when a steel and wood frame for a poured concrete wall shifted at a construction site on St. Charles Avenue, knocking a worker from the top of a five-story building. He slammed against a wall, according to witnesses, and then hung lifeless in his safety harness.

He was taken to Charity Hospital, along with two other workers who were injured in the incident, where he was pronounced dead. The two injured workers are listed in stable condition and are expected to recover from injuries that include broken teeth, cuts and bruises.

There were approximately 50 workers on the construction site, future home of an office and welcome center for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, when the frame, used to create the walls of the elevator shaft, flipped over. One witness reported hearing a loud cracking noise, and workers scrambled to get out from under the wall.

The three workers taken to the hospital were tied off by safety harnesses. Witnesses said the employee who died was hanging from the wall in his harness near the third floor. Another worker ended up inside the building, while the third dangled from the roof.

The construction crew used a crane to hold the loose wall in place, and firefighters climbed extension ladders to reach the worker who died.

Deputy Chief Chris Mickal, Second District, New Orleans Fire Department, said firefighters were concerned that the rescue attempt might create an even more dangerous situation.

"We were very concerned that the wall would come down," when the victim was removed from his safety harness, Mickal said. "We were worried that when we took his weight off of it," the sudden shift in balance and weight could cause the wall to become unstable again.

Firefighters then removed the worker dangling from the roof and helped the third worker walk from the building.

The new building is located across the street from the famed Pontchartrain Hotel.

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