ATLANTIC CITY – As the family of Robert Tartaglio Jr., one of four construction workers killed in the Tropicana Casino and Resort garage collapse, said goodbye to their loved one in a funeral service Sunday evening, an eerie calm temporarily settled in around the accident site.
Many people stopped to stare at three large cranes sitting dormant at the site, as floodlights partially illuminated the collapsed area and exhaust from a nearby casino tower made it look like smoke was rising from the pit.
Yellow police tape still was tied to lampposts, trees and poles. Lists of search-and-rescue team rosters still were stuck to poles in the garage of nearby Brighton Towers. Chain-link fences blocked the site from traffic, including several blocks of Pacific Avenue.
For the first time in three days, it was quiet. But as residents looked ahead to demolition efforts, set to begin again this morning, they wondered when life in the neighborhood would get back to normal.
Three days after the tragedy, most of the 1V news crews had left their posts on residential streets, some of the police roadblocks were gone -letting residents again park their cars on surrounding blocks – and Atlantic Avenue was open.
But also missing was something many people had begun to take for granted, a nuisance that became part of the neighborhood once you got used to it: the sounds of a $245 million casino expansion project right outside their doorsteps.
“It’s quiet It’s like my sister said this morning. you’re used to hearing the construction going on. You don’t even hear it anymore. It gives you the feeling you’re never really safe,” said Jose Velaquez, 18. a North Brighton Avenue resident who said life has felt like a movie for the past few days.
“It’s dying down now. The street was full of camera crews. There were all these cords running up the street. And I came out the next day, and it’s the same thing.”
But Sunday was different It was a time to reflect on the destruction.
“I feel sorry for the people who died over here,” said casino worker Angel Negron, 44, of Egg Harbor Township. as he filmed a view of the five floors that pancaked down in what was to be a 2,400-space, 10-story garage.
Sunday was also a time to mourn, as did a large crowd that trailed out the door of a Northfield funeral home, where the funeral for Tartaglia, a 42-year-old cement finisher from Galloway Township was held
Authorities are scheduled to meet at 7 am today to discuss what comes next. It’s not clear if the entire structure will be demolished. Authorities haven’t commented on the accident’s cause, but the lead regional investigator for the Occupational Safety and Healt.
Administration has said officials will investigate whether the concrete, which was being poured on the top story when the structure gave way, was given enough time to dry.
Eleven victims remained hospitalized Sunday. two in critical condition.