Friday, November 22, 2019

Worker who raised alarm before deadly New Orleans hotel collapse to be deported

Lauren Zanolli
Fri 22 Nov 2019 13.09 EST
Last modified on Fri 22 Nov 2019 13.25 EST

A construction worker who attempted to warn managers about building dangers and was seriously injured in last month’s deadly Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans, will be deported on Monday, his lawyers said this week.

Delmer Joel Ramírez Palma, a Honduran citizen, was working inside the 18-storey building when it dramatically crumbled on to a busy downtown intersection on 12 October, killing three and injuring dozens. He survived a fall from the ninth floor to the sixth by swinging from a rope.

Ramírez Palma was hospitalized with serious injuries, including head trauma and internal inflammation, and still requires surgery for an acute eye injury, according to his wife and two lawyers working on separate immigration and civil injury cases.

Immediately after the accident, he was interviewed by a Spanish-language media outlet. Two days later, he was arrested by immigration authorities while fishing with his family in a national wildlife refuge.

He has lived in New Orleans for 18 years.

According to his lawyers and his wife, Ramírez Palma had reported safety concerns – including asymmetrical building measurements and uncured concrete too weak to support weight – to his supervisors at King Company, a New Orleans construction firm, before the deadly collapse.

Construction managers allegedly told him to ignore the issues, according to Mary Yanik, senior staff attorney at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, an advocacy group.


The Honduran man’s treatment has sent a further chill through the undocumented community, already on high alert under Donald Trump’s aggressive enforcement policies.

“There’s already extraordinary fear in this environment from any worker to report labor violations,” said Yanick.

Ramírez Palma’s lawyers say his case illustrates how a crackdown on undocumented workers could also hamper investigations into the cause of the accident.

“There’s really crucial information here that the public needs to get to the bottom of what happened at Hard Rock,” she said.


Daryl Gray, who is representing Ramírez Palma and four other Hard Rock workers in a civil suit against building developers, said he had spoken to “numerous” undocumented workers too afraid to talk about the accident.


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