ATLANTIC CITY – There were the sounds of jackhammers and some heavy equipment, and the red construction elevators slowly moved up and down the building.
But a day after what was perhaps the worst construction accident in the city’s history, the sounds and activities on the site were not as loud or as boisterous as usual.
Blocks away from the site of the Tropicana Casino and Resort parking garage collapse that killed four people Thursday, work at another gaming-hall project – Resorts Casino Hotel’s 29-story; 459-room hotel tower – was proceeding slowly.
Only about 50 members of the estimated 300 of the regular work force were on the scene Friday. Employers gave the workers, many who still are in shock from the Tropicana accident, the option to stay home.
“You could hear a pin drop in there,” Labor Foreman John Nichols said of the atmosphere inside Resorts’ tower. “They’re normally hootin’ and hollerin’.”
Those on the job had some welcomed company: Nichols said engineers had gone through the under-construction tower to check on safety matters.
Many Resorts workers are employed by companies that also are building Tropicana’s new parking garage. It took only minutes for those workers at Tropicana to call their counterparts at Resorts about what happened Thursday.
There was disbelief at first, followed by a realization of just what had happened, said laborer Carl Kane, of Rio Grande, Cape May County.
“As far as we knew; we thought the whole garage came down,” he said.
Many of the workers at Resorts quickly abandoned their jobs and headed toward the Tropicana accident site to help out. Welding and other equipment was sent to an emergency staging area near Bader Field, ready to be used if needed.
“It was along night,” Nichols said.
Workers who showed up at Resorts on Friday were tired, he said, not only from the long hours put in Thursday, but also from the emotional upheaval they went through.
They also had a visual reminder of the accident: Between a Boardwalk hotel and another tall building was the cupola on top of Tropicana’s hotel and entertainment tower under construction next to the parking garage that collapsed.
Nichols and Kane were looking at that cupola Friday and thinking about the accident that killed their fellow workers.
“It could happen to any of us,” Kane said of a construction accident. “1 would like to think that if something like that happened to me, somebody would come and help get me out.”