A condo building in Surfside, Florida near Miami has collapsed. Nearly 100 people are dead. Now, reports of existing structural damage are coming forward, followed closely by lawsuits. At least 97 people have died after a 12-story residential building near Miami Beach partially collapsed on the morning of June 24th. Work to recover missing people continues as answers come forward about why this seemingly nondescript building suddenly collapsed while its residents slept. [The number of dead is changing quickly as rescuers comb through the rubble. This article was updated on July 16, 2021.]
@abcnews#BREAKING: ABC News’ David Muir has the latest on the condo building collapse in South Florida. #news #surfside #miami #florida♬ original sound – ABC News
A Tik Tok video by ABC News shows the moment of collapse from the outside.
— rosie✨ (@_rosiesantana) June 24, 2021
A video from @_rosiesantana on Twitter showed the collapse from an indoor security camera. Local rescue crews from Miami, Tallahassee, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, and Tampa—as well as crews from Israel and Mexico—are continuing their search of the Champlain Towers South condominiums. Approximately 55 of the building’s 136 units collapsed in a matter of seconds while residents slept in the beachside town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach. Crews are searching the wreckage and remaining structure for survivors; over 150 are still missing. As the days go by, family members have grown increasingly desperate for answers. Search crews have begun tunneling to different floors to try to find survivors. They have also set up cameras, employed sonar devices and drones, and used search dogs in their efforts to find survivors. Unfortunately, rescue efforts have been slow going due to wind, rain, and several major fires that broke out underneath the rubble.
Why did the condo collapse?
The exact cause of the building’s collapse is yet to be determined. Engineers working on the site say that it could be some time before they fully understand what happened. However, some initial information has come to light after experts examined video footage of the disaster. They are focusing on a spot in the underground parking garage under the residential part of the building. They believe this might be where the initial failure occurred which set off a “progressive collapse”. This type of collapse occurs when one part fails, causing all the parts around it to fail at an increasing pace. The condo building was built in the 1980s on drained swampland. According to a report from NYT, the building has been sinking since the 1990s. It was also reported that the building passed an inspection just one day prior to the collapse. But a new inspection report has been revealed from 2018. This report highlighted “a major error” in the original design of the condo building. The now public engineer’s report stated that the building did not allow for proper water drainage around the base of the seaside residential building.
The engineer who wrote the report, Frank Morabito, said the lack of proper water drainage was “a systemic issue” that was created by a flaw “in the development of the original contract documents”. He also noted what he called “major structural damage” to the concrete platform beneath the swimming pool deck. Morabito continued, “The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas…Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” The engineer also noted that there was “abundant cracking… of columns, beams and walls” in the parking garage. It is not yet clear if the problems highlighted in the report caused the building to collapse. Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, has promised that they will find out what happened so that they can give the families affected some answers.
What is being done to help the victims?
Currently, residents of the remaining section of the building, and some residents in other nearby buildings, have been relocated to hotels. A center has also been set up for loved ones of building residents to meet and get information. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters that he has spoken to local officials and plans to travel to the scene soon. The White House is also monitoring the situation and will be offering federal resources as soon as the Governor declares the collapse an emergency. Anyone with family members who lived at the condo building—either safe or still missing—is urged to call 305-614-1819 to account for them.
Why did they demolish the rest of the building before finding all the victims?
On Sunday, July 4th, the remainder of Champlain Towers South was demolished during a controlled demolition.
Experts and rescuers say that the controlled demolition was necessary so that search-and-rescue efforts could expand and speed up. Teams were previously unable to access the areas closest to the remaining part of the building because of its instability
There were also concerns that the structure might collapse on its own, especially because of Florida’s hurricane season.
As soon as they could, rescuers began searching the fresh rubble on Monday, which allowed crews to access previously inaccessible places. This included bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping at the time of the collapse and the underground garage where the collapse is thought to have started.
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What is being done to prevent another building collapse?
With the age of this building raising questions—and a new report that came out showing that the building was known to be unsafe—officials have been scrambling to prevent a similar catastrophe from happening elsewhere. They are starting by putting plans in place to check 59 surrounding buildings that are either at the 40-year mark or have just went through the 40-year recertification. Local mayors in the surrounding areas have also announced new plans for condo safety. The details of those plans have not been released.
Was anyone responsible for the collapse?
In the case of building collapses, the only way that someone can be held responsible is if negligence was involved. Although the report from 2018 is telling, it’s not clear yet why the building collapsed and who could be responsible. If negligence is found to be involved after a thorough investigation, then those injured in the collapse, or the family of those killed in the collapse, could file a personal injury lawsuit. Building collapses are always extremely complicated and the number of possible liable parties is always long. Liable parties could include:
- the construction company or companies that built the building
- the contractors who worked on the initial build or on subsequent restorations
- the architectural firm that designed the building
- the building owners who allowed maintenance or restoration to lapse
- the condo association who knew about issues but did not remedy them
- and anyone else may have contributed to the collapse by omission or negligence.
Surfside Building Collapse Lawsuit
The first lawsuit related to the Surfside building collapse has already been filed against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc. The lawsuit alleges that the condo association failed to “secure and safeguard the lives and property” of the people who lived in the building. According to the lawsuit, repairs were needed and specific structural issues had been identified but had not been fixed. The attorney goes on to say that the Champlain Towers Condominium Association was recklessly negligent with the lives and property of the residents and they could have prevented the collapse by exercising ordinary care, safety measures, and oversight. The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for “equitable relief, restitution, disgorgement, reasonable costs and attorney fees, and all other remedies”. This is expected to exceed $5 million.
Florida Law Firm Actively Investigating Lawsuit for Surfside Building Collapse
In the case of the collapsed building in Surfside, Florida, there is an investigation underway and there could potentially be cause for legal action. Dolman Law Group is actively investigating injury and wrongful death claims related to the Surfside building collapse. If you or a loved one were injured in the collapse, or if your family member was killed in the collapse, contact Dolman Law Group to learn more about possible legal action. It is becoming clear that multiple parties knew that Champlain Towers South was unsafe. We believe in fighting for those who are affected by corporate greed and reckless behavior. Contact us today at 727-451-6900. Image credit Mapillary Creative Common