Hotel collapse survivor speaks out as new questions arise about potential structural flaws

 nbcnews.com  10/17/2019 22:12:00 

Derrick Pate was trapped.

When the future Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans came crashing down Saturday, the steelworker was buried under tons of rubble on the construction sites eighth floor.

I could've been left there, he said Thursday in an exclusive interview with NBC News at his rehabilitation hospital. And I wouldn't be telling this story today.

He said rescue teams initially were reluctant to dig him out because they were worried the remainder of the structure could collapse at any moment. But several of his coworkers insisted they try to save him.

Somebody tried to call me, he recalled. I had my phone in my hand. I couldn't move to answer my phone & I just kept yelling for help.

They managed to dig him out. He was among dozens of people were injured and the last one who remains hospitalized.

Authorities in New Orleans are now investigating a new video following the collapse of the future hotel. The social media post is raising questions about potential concerns before the deadly accident.

The Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans was under construction when the structure partially collapsed Saturday.Gerald Herbert / AP

The grainy video claims to show the hotel two days before it buckled. An apparent worker at the construction site is heard in Spanish saying a concrete slab is aging and the posts supporting it are bent.

It was posted this week on the personal Facebook page of Randy Gaspard, who works on commercial projects but has not worked on the Hard Rock site. He said he got the video from a site worker, but he would not identify who shot it.

When NBC News showed him the video, Pate said it appeared to be the job site.

He wants to make sure that this incident doesn't happen to anybody else again, said Pate's attorney, Shean Williams, who added he's aware of other workers who had complained of potential structural concerns before the collapse.

New Orleans Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said investigators are trying to verify the video.

We're well aware of it, he said. That will certainly be part of the investigation and our evaluation of what caused it.

Crews will use explosives to bring down two cranes that are precariously leaning over the site, which is managed by Citadel Builders.

A spokesman for the company said it had not been able to verify the video.

We cannot overstress that while we await the implementation of the plan to secure the site, one thing that can be just as dangerous as the tower cranes is false information," the company said in a written statement.

Pate had been working at the site for seven months.

Somebody needs to be held accountable for it, he said.

Hes now out of surgery after breaking his femur.

I'm just lucky to be here, actually, he said. Very lucky. Somebody was in my corner. God was in my corner.

Image: Gabe GutierrezGabe Gutierrez

Gabe Gutierrez is an NBC News Correspondent based in Atlanta, Georgia. He reports for all platforms of NBC News, including "TODAY," NBC Nightly News," MSNBC and NBCNews.com.

Tom Junod and Anthony Cusumano contributed.
« Go back