SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - The mystery behind what caused the catastrophic condo collapse in Surfside has taken an alarming turn.
There has been concrete deterioration in the building, which has been happening for quite some time. It’s still unclear what exactly caused the condo towers to come down, but the question is who’s responsible?
Before the tragedy in Surfside, the Champlain Towers condo board was trying to push forward with a multi-million dollar repair job. But a Miami Herald report said the board felt it was being “held up” by the town of Surfside’s slow response.
The article cited emails sent from the board to the town that enquired about space in the parking area that needed work.
This came after plans were submitted in May. The article said the town took more than a month to respond.
Surfside’s building department director James McGinnis answered the board’s email on June 23, a day before the collapse.
McGinnis said he had also been on the south tower’s roof.
When asked what may have happened, McGinnis said, “I don’t wanna speculate at this time. Right now, it’s under investigation.”
Champlain Towers South was in desperate need of repairs. Specifically, the concrete.
A letter from the board president sent to condo owners three months ago reads in part, “The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse.”
Surviving residents said they knew the building needed work.
“Since I’ve been there 20 years, we’ve gotten three assessments. We put in new railings, we put in a new elevator. There was an assessment for something else, but I never thought anything like this,” said survivor Steve Rosenthal.
The board approved more than $15 million in repairs. Residents were assessed.
“My assessment for my unit was $135,000. That’s 15 years at $800 a month,” Rosenthal said. “If I wanted to pay off in full without having to pay the interest, it was $104,000. There are people that paid that $100,000 in advance that weren’t gonna pay the interest. Are they gonna get that money back? Thank God I didn’t pay it. That’s a big assessment.”
However, those repairs would not even begin. Video taken hours before the collapse shows water pouring into the garage.
Moments later, the first part of the building would collapse. Seconds later, the other side. All it took was 12 seconds in all for the building to fall.
“We saw the cracks starting in the ceiling coming down, coming down fast. That black line opened and opened and opened,” said survivor Iliana Monteagudo.
Morabito Consultants was hired in 2018 to look into the much-needed repairs. Three years later, the work was just getting started. The consulting firm cited in the October letter “major structural damage to the concrete slab” and “deep concrete deterioration” near the pool and warned that it would get worse and fast.
The firm also needed access to the inside of the pool where a majority of the repairs needed to be done.
According to that October letter, however, the pool couldn’t be closed. The pool, according to the letter, was to remain in service. It’s unclear who made that decision.
The consulting firm also stated that they could not perform repairs because of concerns about stability.
Morabito released a statement that reads in part, “Morabito Consultants did their job … and they will continue to work with the investigating authorities to understand why this structure failed, so that such a catastrophic event can never happen again.”
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