The cause of the Surfside building collapse remains elusive after a year


A year after a 12-story condominium building in Surfside, Florida collapsed, killing 98 people, the federal agency investigating the crash has yet to determine the cause.

The big picture: There is no single, obvious trigger for the collapse, investigators said, and conclusions could take at least another year.

State of play: So far, a team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has cataloged evidence from the South Champlain Towers and will soon begin “invasive testing” of physical evidence.

  • Investigators will cut steel and concrete samples and perform chemical and corrosion tests.
  • They also interview surviving residents, first responders and others.

Between the lines: Tanya Brown-Giammanco, director of disaster and failure studies at NIST, wrote a blog post in March about why the institute’s investigations can take years.

  • “Our engineers and scientists feel a great responsibility to get it right because this work often leads directly to changes in codes and standards that are used when constructing new buildings or renovating existing buildings,” said writes Brown-Giammanco.
  • These code changes could save lives, she added.
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By the numbers: As the federal investigation continues at a slow pace, two tentative settlements were reached last month involving the families of deceased and surviving condo owners.

  • Families, who must now file claims justifying the value of their loved one’s life, are set to receive nearly $1 billion, while about $96 million will be split between owners.
  • More than 130 lawyers and staff who helped craft the settlements are now asking for about $100 million in legal fees.
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More: In May, a Dubai developer – Hussain Sajwani of DAMAC Properties – was the sole bidder in an auction to buy the now cleared condominium site, bidding around $120 million. Sajwani plans to build a new luxury condo there.

What they say : Michael T. Fay of the Miami office of Avison Young, the real estate broker who handled the sale of the site, told TUSEN he expects it to close in July.

  • “We are happy to be able to put a stop to something,” he said.
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But the families are still frustrated.

  • “How do we not know what happened after a year? How do we not know who might be responsible? Martin Langesfeld, whose sister Nicole was killed in the collapse, told TUSEN Miami last week. “We need answers.”

What awaits us: Surfside officials have planned a memorial at the site Friday, from 10 a.m. to noon.

🗞 This is the first article from TUSEN Miami Deirdra Funcheon. Subscribe to the TUSEN Miami newsletter (launching soon).



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