Building Collapse in Surfside Florida

Miami Building Collapse

UPDATE [07/08/2021 11:45 am]

The death toll has now officially risen to 60 souls with 35 of them identified. As many as 80 still “potentially unaccounted for,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava mayor said in a news conference Thursday morning.

Two weeks have now passed since the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse. The casualty count now making the collapse one of the deadliest mass casualty building collapses in US history, that was not caused by an act of terror or fire.

Recovery effort continue, but searchers are no longer looking for survivors.

Confirmed Death Toll Rises to 60
UPDATE [07/06/2021 7:30 pm]

Documents have surfaced, which provide a glimpse into the information available to condominium decision-makers as they grappled with the appropriate action(s) to take.

The documents describe structural problems in the 40-year-old building. In his report, engineer Frank Morabito wrote “failed waterproofing” under the pool deck and the entrance drive was “causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas”. He goes on to say, that failing to replace the damaged areas in the near future would cause “concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.”

Unfortunately, mixed messages, infighting, and growing repair costs paralyzed decision makers, and no timely action was taken to make the building sound and bring it into compliance with local law.

Perhaps most confusing, was a message communicated to building residents by Surfside inspector Ross Prieto, that the building was “in very good shape”.

Confirmed Death Toll Rises to 36

UPDATE [07/01/2021 4:52 pm]

Search and rescue efforts have halted due to safety concerns. Rescue personnel have said that the still-standing part of the building was shifting, raising concerns that it too may collapse.

In an address to the press, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava stated that operations were halted over “concerns about the standing structure”, and that “search and rescue operation will continue as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have announced that “it would launch a full technical investigation” into the collapse. They have determined from their preliminary investigation, that the collapse meets the criteria for an in-depth federal investigation.

The confirmed death toll of the structural failure has now reached 18, with another 145 people still unaccounted for.

UPDATE [06/30/2021 2:10 pm]

A video taken minutes before the disaster, and shared on TikTok, shows what appears to be a water leak in the garage of the fallen building.

UPDATE [06/29/2021 4:57 pm]

The City stated today that Rosendo Prieto, the Surfside building official who gave the collapsed building a clean bill of health in November 2018, was placed on leave from his current position as interim building official for Doral, Florida.

Mr. Prieto was Surfside’s building official when the 40-year recertification inspection process was under way at the Champlain Towers South building. He left that position late last year, after filling the role for the seven years prior.

UPDATE [06/29/2021 12:31 pm]

A seven page letter, dated April 9, has surfaced. The letter was penned by Jean Wodnicki, the president of the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association and sent to building residents.

The letter outlines the building’s state of disrepair, and the millions of dollars needed to remedy the needed repairs.

In the letter, she references a 2018 inspection conducted by the engineering firm Morabito Consultants, where a “major error” in the design of the building was noted, along with crumbling concrete columns in the garage area beneath the structure.

Most damning, is that the report predicted that failure to repair the damage in the “near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.”

Two and a half months after sending the letter, the building would collapse, killing many of it’s occupants.

UPDATE [06/28/2021 1:02 pm]

Entering day five of the horrific condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava has confirmed the death of 10 people, with another 151 people still unaccounted for.

Confirmed Dead (as of 06/28)

List moved below

Today, Gov. Ron DeSantis met with scientists and engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, regarding the commencement of a preliminary investigation to help bring understanding around why the building collapsed.

For information or to report the status of a loved one who is unaccounted for, call 305-614-1819 or 305-993-1071.

UPDATE [06/25/2021 5:55 pm]

TorkLaw has reviewed a study published in Ocean & Coastal Management referenced in a previous update.

In a study published in 2019, titled Local land subsidence in Miami Beach (FL) and Norfolk (VA) and its contribution to flooding hazard in coastal communities along the U.S. Atlantic coast’ researchers looked at vertical land movement in the area that this condo building resides, from 1992 – 1999.

Using SAR images acquired by the ERS-1/2 satellites, the researchers were able to detect and measure local land subsidence (sinking) in the area of study.

Extracts from the study: “The results indicate that most of the city (~97%) was stable during the 1993–1999 observation period… several localized subsiding areas were detected mostly in the western part of the city… areas typically consist of single-family houses that were built on reclaimed wetlands… In some locations, as in the eastern part of the city, the detected subsidence is of a 12-story high condominium building… The detected subsidence rate is in the 1–3 mm/yr range.”

A succinct summary of the study and video by FIU Institute of Environment Professor Shimon Wdowinski can be seen here.

UPDATE [06/25/2021 5:35 pm]
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner has identified Stacie Fang, 54, as one of those killed in the collapse.

UPDATE [06/25/2021 8:09 am]

As of 8:00am local time, 102 people have now been accounted for, 4 have been confirmed dead, and the number of persons listed as ‘missing’ has risen to 159.

President Joe Biden has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist state agencies with the relief effort.

A study has surfaced, that was published last year, which found that the building had been sinking at a rate of 2 millimeters per year in the 90s. The study’s author, Professor Shimon Wdowinski of Florida International University, told the Miami Herald newspaper: “We’ve seen much higher than that, but it stood out because most of the area was stable and showed no subsidence.” The professor noted that the study was just a snapshot in time, and does not suggest certainty about the latest incident. But, it is quite possible that the sinking may have impacted the building’s structural integrity.

It is also noteworthy, that the building was constructed on reclaimed wetland. The concern with such construction methods, is that the land underneath can compact over time.

Authorities have established a family assistance center at the Surfside Recreational Center for individuals unable to locate loved ones who live in the Champlain Towers South.

Family members of those in the condominium, are urged to call 305-614-1819 to account for them – whether they are safe or still missing.

Surfside Death Toll Names – (Confirmed Dead as of 07/08)

  • Ainsworth, Ingrid (66 years old)
  • Ainsworth, Tzvi (68 years old)
  • Altman, Michael David (50 years old)
  • Bermudez, Luis (26 years old)
  • Bonnefoy, Claudio (85 years old)
  • Cattarossi, Graciela(48 years old)
  • Delgado, Magaly Elena (80 years old)
  • Epstein, Bonnie (56 years old)
  • Epstein, David (58 years old)
  • Elvir, Christina Beatriz (74 years old)
  • Fang, Stacie Dawn (54 years old)
  • Guara, Emma (4 years old)
  • Guara, Lucia (10 years old)
  • Guara, Marcus Joseph (52 years old)
  • Kleiman, Frank (55 years old)
  • Kleiman, Jay (52 years old)
  • Kress Levin, Nancy (76 years old)
  • LaFont, Manuel (54 years old)
  • Lozano, Antonio (83 years old)
  • Lozano, Gladys (79 years old)
  • Noriega, Hilda (92 years old)
  • Obias-Bonnefoy, Maria (69 years old)
  • Oliwkowicz, Christina Beatriz Elvira (74 years old)
  • Oliwkowicz, Leon (80 years old)
  • Ortiz, Anna (46 years old)
  • Plasencia, Francis Fernandez (67 years old)
  • Rodriguez, Anaely (42 years old)
  • Torre, Gonzalo (81 years old)
  • Unnamed daughter of a Miami firefighter (7 years old)

ORIGINAL STORY [06/24/2021]:

The collapse of a 12-story Surfside, Miami building has caused the death of at least one person, and left 99 missing.

According to Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett, the cause of the collapse is not clear. The building was undergoing roof maintenance at the time of the collapse, but it is not yet known if this was a factor.

The complex, Champlain Towers South, was built in 1980 and houses 130 units, with roughly half having been damaged by the collapse. The complex is home to a large number of Latin American migrants, many of whom have been reported missing but their consulates. 53 occupants have been accounted for; at present, their amount and extent of injuries is unknown.

At an emergency press conference, Florida Governor Ron Desantis told reporters that he “still has hope to identify additional survivors”. Miami-Dade Fire rescue is still operating in “search and rescue mode, and is working to rescue and treat any survivors that may still be in the wreckage.

Surfside Community Center is serving as a base for family reunification, information, and emergency services for affected survivors and their families. Victims’ advocates at the scene are not currently providing the identities of those who have been accounted for.

At present, a state of emergency has not yet been declared, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is at the scene and prepared to provide assistance.

Witnesses to the collapse describe an earthquake-like feeling, and loud, sudden rumble, and drew similarities from the World Trade Center collapse of 9/11. According to local authorities, it appears “the complex had collapsed straight down on itself”.

“It was just a pile of dust and rubble,” a witness told CNN. “When the dust cleared, the back two-thirds of the building was gone, it was down to the ground.”

Assistance For Building Collapse Victims

If you or a loved one was injured or killed in the Surfside, Florida building collapse, the team at TorkLaw may be able to assist you.

We are currently reviewing building collapse cases cases. Call us today, or complete an online form to have us review your case to see how we can help.

Accident victims have rights and entitlements – protect your rights to financial recovery from this catastrophic event – call us today. All case reviews are free, confidential, and do not obligate you to use our services.


This page is an attorney advertisement. The licensed attorney in Florida associated with these cases, is Peter Kaufman, Esq. Queries about this advertisement can be directed to [email protected]


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