NEW ORLEANS — Plans to bring down a pair of unstable construction cranes leaning precariously over the crumbled remains of the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel have been delayed again.
New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell gave the updated timeline at a Saturday afternoon press conference.
"After consulting with the experts working on this, the explosives experts, we have a shift in our timeline," he said. "Now the soonest this will occur is noon tomorrow."
The delay was caused by new information from demolitions experts inspecting the cranes Saturday morning.
"They got up and got close to it and they found out some things about it that have changed the way they're going to take it down, some of the methodology they're going to use, and that's going to take a little longer for them to accomplish," McConnell said. "The crane's more damaged than they thought. They need to do things that are a little bit safer."
While McConnell did not have exact numbers, he said one of the cranes had shifted since their last inspection and, unlike previous times, did not return to its original position. This one-way movement indicates their support is weakening, he said.
"It is a damaged crane,' McConnell said. "You are not bringing down something that's new construction. This thing is being brought down because it is highly damaged."
A wide evacuation site around the collapse site will be expanded again ahead of the planned Sunday implosion.
City officials are still determining how wide the new area will be, but will likely take into account the number of people who came to watch the demolition Saturday.
"We will be giving you an adjusted evacuation zone based on that, and we're still working on all that planning," McConnell said.
The towers — one around 270 feet high, the other about 300 feet — weigh tons and have loomed over the wreckage for a week.
The Hard Rock Hotel under construction at the corner of Canal and Rampart Streets partially collapsed Oct. 12, killing three workers.
Two bodies remain in the unstable wreckage and Mayor LaToya Cantrell said recovering the remains would be a top priority once the area was rendered safe.
If the plans succeed, the towers will drop vertically, sparing neighboring structures that include the Saenger Theatre and the New Orleans Athletic Club, both built in the 1920s.
At a memorial ceremony Thursday night, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said recovering the bodies will be a top priority once the cranes are down and the building is stable.
Experts, including some who brought down damaged buildings at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have worked around the clock since Saturday to devise a means of safely bringing down the cranes.
The cause of the collapse remains unknown. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is investigating and, Cantrell and McConnell said, evidence gathering began soon after the collapse.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.