Work To Clear Wreckage Might Restart Monday

ATLANTIC CITY -Work to demolish portions of the Tropicana Casino and Resort parking garage, which collapsed last week killing four construction workers and injuring at least 20 others, was put on hold and will not proceed until Monday, officials said Saturday. Officials said a portion of Pacific Avenue would remain closed for at least a month.

The demolition work – the first part of a larger project, the scope of which has yet to be determined – began late Friday and was to have involved biting away in chunks at a lOO·foot-high wall and several columns that stand leaning largely unsupported on one end of the structure, where the five levels of the garage fell.

But officials said the concrete walls and columns proved more resilient than was first thought, and a 110-ton crane will be brought in this morning so that workers can proceed by drilling holes in sections of the structures, threading cables through them, cutting the structures into pieces and then lowering them to the ground.

Speaking to reporters at the scene Saturday evening. Police Capt. John Mooney said officials were nowhere near determining how much of the 2,400-space garage ultimately wou1d need to be demolished.

He said the project wou1d be long and complicated and likely will result in Pacific Avenue from Morris Avenue to California Avenue remaining closed for at least one month.

Mooney said portions of the -casino’s existing garage, which is next to the one that collapsed, as well as a large adjacent hotel lower that was evacuated after the collapse a1so will remain closed for the next several days.

The collapse happened late Thursday morning as workers poured a concrete deck onto the top floor at one end of the 10-floor garage. The floor suddenly gave way, collapsing along with the four beneath it like a falling house of cards.

Killed were four Atlantic County construction workers: Michael M. Wittland. 53. of Pleasantville; James P. Bigelow, 29. of Egg Harbor Township; Robert A. Tartaglio, 42, of Galloway Township; and Scott N. Pietrosante, 21. of the Milmay section of Buena Vista Township.

Ten construction workers remained hospitalized at Atlantic City Medica1 Center’s two divisions Saturday. Two remained in critica1 condition, a hospital spokeswoman said. Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point reportedly had one remaining injured worker, who was listed in fair condition.

Although oflicia1s involved in the investigation have declined to discuss what might have triggered the collapse. Construction workers from the project and others have begun offering theories.

Some workers and labor union officials have said the casino was pushing to quickly wrap up its $245 million expansion project which includes the garage, a new hotel tower and new retail and convention space. They said sufficient time was not afforded to allow the concrete being poured at the garage to cure before workers removed temporary supports

Officials from Fabi Construction. the Egg Harbor Township concrete-installation company for the project, could not be reached for comment Saturday. But Liz Da1ey, a contract administrator for the company who spoke to The New York Times, did not dispute that there was pressure to get the, project done quickly.

Remember last winter, remember how much snow we had in Atlantic City? The project was delayed and of course you want to make up time and meet an owner’s schedule, she told The Times.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators have interviewed a Voorhees woman who said she heard popping and wailing – noises coming from the garage last Sunday but was brushed off when she told a security guard. The investigators have not said how much credence they are giving the woman’s account. according to the AP.

Meanwhile, for some of those who were injured in the collapse. recovery is proving slow and difficult

Bryam Ali. of Atlantic City. said in an interview Saturday that his younger brother. Hassan Ali, 43. also of Atlantic City, was working on the top floor when it collapsed. He said his brother suffered several serious injuries. including a punctured lung. a jaw broken in five different places. a broken right hip and right leg whose bones are virtually all broken or crushed.

“He was a mess when they brought him into the hospital,” Ali said of Byram, a father of two children. ~He was just covered in concrete when they brought him in. He’s gone through so much trauma The doctor said his leg is one of the worst breaks he’s ever seen in his career. He was really, really messed up.”

Ali said the family is distraught and wants answers as to why the construction workers were working in an unsafe condition. He said the family is hoping for a full and complete investigation.

Also Saturday, the 162 residents of the nearby Brighton Towers condominium building, which was evacuated Friday night as a precaution for the demolition work that was supposed to have taken place, were brought home. Officials said the residents likely would not be asked to evacuate the tower again.

The area around the collapse has become something of a city attraction, especially with Atlantic Avenue and surrounding streets reopening Saturday. Throughout the day, traffic slowed as cars passed the Tropicana. and several people – some of them construction workers – gathered on the street corners closest to the garage, talking and taking photos of the mangled garage.

Officials said the work to demolish the fallen area of the garage will begin Monday and will involve removing the remaining upright Structures first before dealing with the pancaked floors. A larger remediation plan is forthcoming.

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