The Search for Answers on the Surfside Condo Collapse
By Leah Rush Easterby
July 8, 2021
As of July 6, 2021, at least six lawsuits had already been filed by families of the Champlain Tower South (CTS) collapse victims.
In a desperate search for answers and transparency, the Town of Surfside created a public database of documents related to the residential tower’s impending 40-year recertification. Those documents show advance knowledge of significant structural defects and reticence to act on the part of various authority figures. While many questions remain, it’s clear that a lack of proper guidance and leadership from senior stakeholders, including the condo association, engineers, town inspectors, and “insurance carriers,” in the months and years preceding the tragedy will be heavily scrutinized in the courts.
Here are some of the alarming events surrounding the tragedy:
- In October 2018, engineering firm Morabito Consultants’ inspection report noted a “major error” in the pool deck’s construction that allowed water to puddle until it evaporated. Over time, the standing water deteriorated the concrete slabs and corroded rebar below the pool deck. Failed waterproofing was causing major structural damage to the concrete slab below the pool deck. And failure to timely repair waterproofing would, in Morabito’s opinion, cause concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.
- The next month, the condo association hosted Surfside Building Official Ross Prieto at its meeting. He observed that in his opinion the building was “in very good shape.”
- In early 2019, the condo association secretary contacted the town building department concerned that construction next door at the 87 Park condo development was affecting CTS’s structural integrity. Later that year, in apparent frustration over negotiations regarding recommended structural repairs, five of the condo association’s seven-member board resigned.
- Finally, in April 2021, the condo association sent a letter to residents outlining a $15 million remediation project, noting the ongoing concrete deterioration Morabito had accurately alluded to. Morabito filed remediation plans with the Town of Surfside seeking a “memo of understanding” from the town regarding requested parking expansion but not requesting permits to perform the structural repairs.
- Sometime on June 22, an anonymous pool contractor took photos of the pool equipment room in the underground garage showing standing water, cracking concrete, and severely corroded rebar.
- On June 24, around 1:25 a.m., 55 of CTS’s 136 units collapsed to the ground. Moments prior, a tourist had taken video of water pouring into the parking garage. A fourth-floor resident called her husband saying a crater had appeared in the pool deck.
- On June 28, a class action lawsuit was filed alleging the weight of materials and construction equipment being used for roof repairs at the time CTS collapsed may have been a contributing cause of the structural failure.
“We’re not seeing anything positive,” County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky told reporters on July 6. As of this writing, 60 people are confirmed dead, 80 are still unaccounted for, and more than 7 million pounds of concrete have been removed from the site.