Surfside condo investigators reveal likely cause of collapse that killed 98 people

A final report on the incident is due next year

Michelle Del Rey
Friday 08 March 2024 22:19 GMT
Body camera footage shows moments after Miami condo collapse

The investigation into the Surfside condo collapse in Florida has revealed the likely cause of the catastrophe which left 98 people dead.

Investigators said on Thursday that they are focusing on the role played by the pool deck and supporting columns in the tragedy which took place nearly three years ago.

Around 1am on 24 June, 2021, Champlain Towers South in Surfside, a neighbourhood which borders Miami Beach, began to crumble before partially collapsing.

It took officials around two weeks to search for survivors and a month to collect the remains of the deceased. The remainder of the building was demolished the following month.

On Thursday, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which investigates building collapses including the World Trade Center on 9/11, laid out its new evidence.

Dr Emel Ganapati, co-lead of evidence collection, said that the first major collapse occurred in the pool deck around 1am, before it caved into a parking garage underneath the building.

Minutes later, 11 apartments from the residential tower collapsed onto each other, followed by another 10 units.

Another investigator said that the pool deck and parking garage did not meet building code requirements at the time of its construction in 1981, and had not been brought up to code before it collapsed.

Those discrepancies stemmed from reinforcement detailing, concrete cover and the relative strength of the column versus the slab concrete, officials said.

Additionally, the structural design of the pool deck and tower failed to meet strength and prescriptive requirements, though design flaws were far more prominent in the pool deck.

The Independent reached out to Surfside town officials for comment.

The investigators’ new information confirmed previous eyewitness accounts and media reports.

“It was as if these units were being dragged down,” one witness said, describing the partial collapse.

Another resident told officials that they saw the pool deck collapse into the garage after a family member who’d heard metallic noises woke them up, Dr Ganapati said.

The noises then became “louder” and “more intense”, the resident noted. Another resident claimed the parked cars on the street proceeded to sink into the ground.

Despite the update, officials said that they haven’t reached a final conclusion.

“We continue to study the consequences of numerous potential causes and contributors to failure initiation in the tower,” one investigator said.

There are currently two dozen failure hypotheses but officials also said that they haven’t found evidence of sinkholes or karstic voids, holes in aquifers large enough to cause a destructive collapse.

Still, questions remain. “What triggered the pool deck’s collapse? Was the triggering event a failure within the pool deck? Or did some event in the tower trigger the pool deck to collapse?” Jack Moehle, a co-leader in the project, openly wondered at the meeting.

The final incident report is expected in 2025. The investigative committee has spent $30m, allocated by Congress, to discover what caused the tragedy.

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