NEW ORLEANS -- A house being lifted under the state's home elevation grant program collapsed this morning near Mound Avenue and Catina Street, leaving at least two workers with significant injuries and sending five to the hospital.
The building collapsed around 11:30 a.m. in the 100 block of Mound Avenue. The home had been lifted about six feet in the air and crews were finishing the process when it collapsed.
Brian Martinez with AVN Construction, the lead contractor for the elevation job, says that the foundation and the walls were completed Wednesday and the house was ready to be set down on its foundation. He also said that due to the collapse, the house will likely have to be demolished and is a total loss.
The accident happened during work connected to the elevation of the house, but Craig Taffaro, head of the state Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, said the collapsed portion of the house was part of a renovation project that was not part of the elevation job or the state elevation program's activities.
"Statements from both the general contractor and the subcontractor have been collected and are under review," Taffaro said. "The general contractor is responsible for correcting the damage, including replacing the structure if necessary, and has in fact confirmed that he will be demolishing the collapsed structure and rebuilding it starting next week."
After the house was jacked up by Brimmer Enterprises, AVN poured the foundation and built support walls. Brimmer was called back in today to set the house down on the new foundation walls by removing cribbing and support beams 6 inches at a time.
Charles Brimmer with Brimmer Enterprises, the elevation subcontractor, explained that five men were working on the house at the time of the collapse and that they were removing steel and cribbing when they felt something shift, and the back and side of the house collapsed.
The five men were all transported to the hospital, according to Brimmer, at least two of them with broken bones, including a fractured leg and broken hand. Taffaro confirmed that only two needed medical attention.
The house had been elevated for two months and it appears there is termite damage and rotten wood near the base of the exterior walls, which Brimmer speculated may have led to the collapse. But Martinez said he thought Brimmer's workers could have done something improper as they removed the spacers and brought the house down onto its foundation.
In the four years of the $750 million state elevation program, a few homes have had to be replaced by the contractors because of damage. At least two area elevation jobs, one in Kenner and one in eastern New Orleans, fell on workers and killed them, but only the New Orleans house, on Mercier Street, had been lifted as a part of the state's grant program.
Engineers from both the city and the state began investigations today.