Live Updates: Miami-Area Condo Collapse: NPR


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Search teams are working to recover the remains Wednesday as efforts move into the recovery process at the collapsed 12-story South Apartment building at Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida.

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Search teams are working to recover the remains Wednesday as efforts move into the recovery process at the collapsed 12-story South Apartment building at Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida.

Joe Riddell / Getty Images

Nine months before a massive section of Champlain Towers south in Surfside, Florida fell flooding an engineering firm called Morabito Consultants and found concrete “severely deteriorated” throughout the building, including the load-bearing structures known as ledges.

According to a document obtained by NPR from an anonymous source, the company’s investigation, which was conducted between June and October 2020, found problems that appeared to be more serious than those identified earlier. Study 2018 From the apartment leased by the same company.

The Maryland-based company, which has been chartered by the Condo Association Board of Directors, is well respected in the construction industry, in part because of its Helping save other Florida buildings from collapse a decade ago.

A spokesperson for Morabito Consultants declined to answer a detailed list of questions provided by NPR about the company’s work at the apartment site.

A spokesperson for the Surfside condo board said the company had never issued an explicit warning to its leadership or to residents of Champlain Towers South. Town officials said they were never notified of the results.

On June 24, the 12-storey building collapsed within seconds, killing at least 60 people and 80 more are believed to be missing in the thick pile of debris.

“Exploratory demolition” found serious problems

NPR previously reported that Morabito Consultants produced a disturbing report in 2018 that was shared with Surfside City officials.

The latest document shows that the company returned in 2020 for a more thorough inspection, using a technology known as “exploratory demolition” at five locations throughout the building.

Engineers have found evidence that part of the Surfside Building’s load-bearing foundation may have been compromised.

“Areas of deteriorating concrete appeared to penetrate deep into the wall/edging construction,” the company said. Memorandum sent to the apartment board in October 2020Included in the minutes of the monthly meeting of the association.

These findings were blended with more routine information about the apartment’s cosmetic problems and with a discussion of forward-looking plans to upgrade the building’s parking area, lobby, recreation room and other amenities.

In its memo, the company also admitted to holding off on a full investigation because the apartment’s pool “would have remained in service for the duration of the business.”

at general statement About the disaster emailed to NPR, Morabito Consultants noted the “detailed findings and recommendations” provided by the company. In the previous October 2018 report.

That document identified problems throughout the building and noted repairs “necessary to ensure the safety of residents and the public.”

“Morabito Consultants has done its job, just as it has done for nearly four decades – providing expert structural engineering consulting and services,” the company statement read.

But company spokesman Brett Marcy He did not comment on the subsequent inspections of the apartment, which were conducted after June 2020. He also declined to say whether the company had informed anyone that immediate action might be warranted.

“Morabito Consultants does not disclose or disclose client documents,” Marcy wrote in an email to NPR.

Town officials say there was no sense of urgency

Surfside city officials and a spokesperson for the Apartment Consortium told NPR that no such warning was issued by the engineering firm.

“At no time did the board receive any indication that there was any danger of imminent collapse of the building or that any evacuation was necessary,” said Max Marcucci, a spokesman for the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association.

Surfside officials said there was no record of any “alarm sound” from Morabito Consultants after its engineers conducted the investigation later in 2020.

“There doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency or emergency,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told NPR. He noted that he was unaware of the company’s latest investigation in 2020.

The day before the apartment collapsed, Surfside’s top building administrator, James McGuinness, was on the rooftop, checking out work on an unrelated project.

Speaking at the city’s emergency committee meeting the day after the crash, June 25, McGuinness said he had not seen anything so alarming during his visit.

He also noted the central role of the engineering company as the apartment has undergone a 40-year safety rehabilitation process.

“It is the responsibility of the landlord to appoint a professional engineer to inspect a couple of things,” McGuinness said. “The building’s load-bearing structural components and the building’s electrical systems. And to make sure they’re still operable, serviceable and usable, that simple.”

According to Miami-Dade County officials, there are no regulations requiring Morabito Consultants to immediately share their findings with government building inspectors.

But in a statement emailed to NPR, a spokeswoman for Tere Florin of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources said companies have a “responsibility” to alert officials if they find safety concerns.

“Licensed engineers and architects have a moral and ethical responsibility to report any life threat or safety issues they encounter to those who can take immediate action to remove the danger,” the Miami-Dade County statement said.

Workers help with a search-and-rescue march along Collins Avenue after the 12-storey South Champlain Towers completely collapsed Tuesday in Surfside, Florida. The part of the building that remained standing after the deadly collapse on June 24 was demolished Sunday night before Tropical Storm Elsa approached.

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Workers help a search-and-rescue march along Collins Avenue after the entire 12-story Champlain Towers collapsed Tuesday in Surfside, Florida. The part of the building that remained standing after the deadly collapse on June 24 was demolished Sunday night before Tropical Storm Elsa approached.

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The apartment association board faces scrutiny too

It remains unclear whether any of the structural problems identified by the Morabito team – in 2018 or after they were hired again in 2020 – directly contributed to the building’s collapse.

But experts consulted by NPR said the company’s findings looked worrisome enough to warrant immediate action.

However, some also felt that the information the company provided to the apartment board was enough to spur a quick response by the building’s owners.

“They failed to do what a reasonable prudent housing association board would have done under similar circumstances,” said Greg Schlesinger, an attorney and contractor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who specializes in issues related to distressed buildings and construction defects.

NPR previously reported The Apartment Society’s Volunteer Board has split over controversies and disputes, with many residents angered by an assessment of the $15 million repair costs.

Documents obtained by NPR also indicate that some in the apartment leadership were aware of the severity of the building’s problems.

The Board of Directors’ meeting minutes for 202o include an acknowledgment that some required repair work is focused on “life/health/safety” issues.

The apartment building manager stated in November 2020 that “the major expenses relate largely to the elements that are not cosmetic or even seen: concrete, roof, generator room, firewall.”

Last week, a Miami-Dade County Circuit judge placed the Champlain Towers South . Apartment Association in judicial custody.

An engineering company cooperating with investigations

Several investigations are underway now. Including an investigation by the Federal Agency that examined the collapse of the Twin Towers after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Miami-Dade State Attorney announced Wednesday That a grand jury also investigate the disaster and make recommendations on how to avoid building collapses in the future.

With Surfside’s search and rescue now over, much of the focus has been on figuring out the cause of the disaster and determining if it could have been avoided.

Morabito Consulting said in its statement that it was “working closely with investigative authorities.”

at the same time, Lawsuits have already been filed v. Morabito Consultants, the Apartment Board et al.

Some Florida government officials have also called for reforms to building codes, inspection protocols and rules governing condo associations to prevent a repeat of the Surfside disaster.

“I look forward to the truth,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine Cava told reporters on Tuesday.

“We’ll get to the bottom of this, learn what happened, what could have been prevented and how to make sure it never happens again.”


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