At least 11 dead after partial building collapse near Miami

By Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 11:56 PM ET, Mon June 28, 2021
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9:33 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Engineer who inspected condo in 2020 said he saw cracks and deterioration but was not alarmed

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

CNN
CNN

The structural engineer who inspected Champlain Towers South last year said he saw cracks and deterioration but was not alarmed.

“I saw cracks in the stucco facade. I saw deterioration of the concrete balconies. I saw cracks and deterioration of the garage and plaza level but those are all things that we are accustomed to seeing and that’s why our job exists – to maintain and repair the buildings,” Jason Borden told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” 

Borden said nothing he saw during his hour-long inspection alarmed him. Borden said what he observed is typical of buildings this age that are on the coast. He also said what he saw is consistent with the nature of reinforcing steel and concrete over time.

Borden says these factors can become a danger when they are not maintained or repaired.

When asked about a more comprehensive 2018 inspection report which found structural damage, cracks, and possible spalling under the pool and parking garage, Borden said the findings were “typical of what we see in buildings of this age and condition.”

“I thought it was a very well put together report,” Borden said. “They had done the full investigation that we were proposing to do. They went through and detailed very thoroughly exactly what was wrong with the building, again, is very typical of what we see in buildings of this age in this condition.”

When asked about recent speculation the collapse may have begun at the bottom, Borden said the most likely culprit in such a scenario would be the failure of a column.

“The most likely or the most common would be the failure of a column. So, the columns are one of the most robust parts of the building,” Borden said. “They are designed to hold up the entire building so something had to have happened to a column.”

Borden said an adjacent slab being compromised or failing can lead to a column collapsing.

When asked about recent reports that a woman reportedly told her husband just before the collapse that she saw a hole where the pool used to be, Boden said that “definitely” could have been a factor in the sudden and catastrophic collapse.

Borden said if the pool deck or structural slab near the building failed or was compromised, “it could have contributed to the end result.”

Borden expressed confidence in the integrity of Champlain Towers North and East.

“You know they are maintaining their buildings. Personally, I am confident in the stability of those buildings because I’ve been closely involved with Champlain Towers East,” Borden said.

 Watch the full interview:

7:47 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Surfside collapse search and rescue effort largest Florida has ever had that isn’t a hurricane, official says

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

CNN
CNN

Florida State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said the search and rescue effort underway in Surfside at the Champlain Towers South collapse site is the largest that state has ever had that isn’t a hurricane.

“It’s the largest effort we’ve ever had in the history of the state of Florida that not’s been a hurricane,” Patronis told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”

Patronis said the rescue effort has been helped in recent days by a newly constructed trench and first responders’ ability to remove giant pieces of smoldering concrete.

Patronis said one of the pieces they were able to pull out weighed about 12,000 pounds and it was scorched from a fire burning beneath it.

“As they have been able to remove some of these, they have been able to get some of the fuel out of the system and with the fuel going away, the fires are minimized and the work is more efficient,” Patronis said.

The state's fire marshal said the idea that even one person could be pulled alive from the rubble is what motivates first responders to continue the grueling recovery effort.

Asked about potential causes of the catastrophic collapse, Patronis said he is focused on the recovery efforted but said “it will be a Greek tragedy if they find that this all could have been avoided.”

 

9:24 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Rescue teams from other countries are assisting locals with rescue operations

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Members of the Israel Rescuers delegation gather upon their arrival in the area near the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in the city of Surfside, Florida, on Sunday, June 27.
Members of the Israel Rescuers delegation gather upon their arrival in the area near the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in the city of Surfside, Florida, on Sunday, June 27. Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Images

Rescue teams from other countries are traveling to Florida to assist locals with rescue operations as the scene continues to be a challenging situation.

A team of ten rescuers from Israel arrived Sunday morning, Kevin Guthrie, the director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, told CNN.

They went to the collapse scene and "were on the pile almost all day," Guthrie said

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said a rescue team from Mexico is expected to arrive Monday.

Crews have been working non-stop since the collapse early Thursday morning, with rescuers switching out over different shifts as weather and fires complicated their efforts.

Smoke from a deep burning fire made the first days of the rescue operation difficult, as visibility was poor and temperatures were high, according to Burkett.

Alan Cominsky, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief, called conditions at the site "horrific."

"It's tough to describe. We don't have the voids that we are hoping for," Cominsky said Sunday. "We are still looking. So that's what I mean by horrific. It's just a difficult, difficult situation."

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescuers are using a grid search approach on the pile and continue to utilize sonar, cameras and K9 resources.

A search dog named Oreo, a 2-year-old female pomsky, owned by volunteer Moises Soffer, from Mexico is seen outside on Sunday, June 27, in Surfside, Florida.
A search dog named Oreo, a 2-year-old female pomsky, owned by volunteer Moises Soffer, from Mexico is seen outside on Sunday, June 27, in Surfside, Florida. Gianrigo Marletta/AFP/Getty Images

The issue isn't resources but luck, according to Burkett.

"We have a full complement of very experienced search and rescue people. We have waves of them going over that rubble pile right now," Burkett told CNN Sunday.

"We got everything we need and more, we just need some luck and we had it," he explained.

Read more about the rescue efforts here.

7:25 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Vice mayor of Sunny Isles Beach expresses concerns about older residential buildings in her city

CNN
CNN

Vice Mayor of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, Larisa Svechin expressed concerns over the older condominium buildings in her city following the deadly building collapse in Surfside.

"First of all, our concerns, obviously, are for the safety of our residents and, so, we are immediately putting in plans to check 59 buildings that are either at the 40-year mark or have just went through the 40-year recertification because ultimately, we need to understand if there was anything that was missed, anything that we can do, how we can help and how we can mitigate for something," Svechin told CNN's John Berman.

"Starting this morning, actually, we are taking out teams going out through our city, which is a pretty small city but has over 20,000 condo units and start checking those buildings. The 20 going through recertification right now," she said.

Sunny Isles Beach city is less than five miles north of Surfside.

7:34 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Here's what we know so far about the victims

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

At least nine people are confirmed dead following the collapse, with eight of them identified by authorities as of Sunday night.

The first victim was identified Friday as Stacie Fang, 54. She is the mother of Jonah Handler, the boy who was pulled from the rubble alive, her family said in a statement.

"There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie," the family said. "The many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time."

Officials identified three more victims on Saturday as Antonio Lozano, 83, Gladys Lozano, 79, and Manuel LaFont, 54.

On Sunday, they released the identities of four more victims: Leon Oliwkowicz, 80; Luis Bermudez, 26; Anna Ortiz, 46; and Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74. One victim has not yet been identified by authorities.

"The process of identifying these victims is very difficult," Levine Cava said Saturday. "We're going to be relying on DNA testing. And that is why we've already been gathering DNA samples from the family members, so they have all participated and provided DNA to assist us in the investigation."

"This allows us to do rapid DNA testing on site for bodies," she explained.

But the painstaking wait is made even more unbearable for some as burials, traditionally done within days after death in the Jewish tradition, are unable to happen until the dead are recovered. The Greater Miami Jewish Federation offered to help community members with arranging funeral and burial services.

This morning, Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States Carlos Vecchio said on Twitter that two of the victims are Venezuelan citizens.

7:10 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Two Venezuelan citizens among those killed in building collapse, ambassador says

From CNN's Isa Soares 

Two of the victims of the building collapse near Miami, Florida, are Venezuelan citizens, Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States Carlos Vecchio said in a post on Twitter on Monday. 

"We regret to confirm the death of Venezuelan nationals Leon Oliwkowic and Cristina Beatriz Elvira," Vecchio said and added, "The Embassy expresses our condolences to their family and friends." 

Nine people are dead and at least 152 are unaccounted for in the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a Sunday night press briefing.

Eight of the nine people have been identified, and the identities of four of people have been released to the public. The identities of the other four have not been released to the public as officials are working to notify their families.

See the ambassador's tweet:

8:19 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Missing woman told husband on phone call she saw area around pool cave in, multiple outlets report

From CNN’s Joe Sutton

Cassondra Stratton was in her unit at Champlain Towers South when she called her husband Michael Stratton early Thursday morning, he told the Miami Herald.  

She was “speaking frantically about their condo building shaking,” according to the Herald, which spoke to Michael Stratton. 

According to the Herald, “She told him she saw a sinkhole, where the pool out her window used to be. Then the line went dead.”

The Washington Post reported that Stratton was in her fourth-floor balcony, she felt a tremor and saw the deck of the swimming pool cave in.

Cassondra Stratton is the wife of Michael Stratton, senior policy adviser with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. 

She is among the people still believed to be among the missing after part of a 12-story residential building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed early Thursday, his law firm’s spokesperson Lara Day told CNN.

7:17 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Officials begin inspections of nearby buildings after Florida condo collapse leaves at least 9 dead

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Rescue crews have descended upon the coastal town of Surfside, Florida, as families wait for any news — good or bad — about their loved ones following the collapse of a condo building Thursday.

At least nine people are dead, 152 are unaccounted for and 134 are accounted for in the collapse of Champlain Towers South as of Sunday night, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news conference.

The missing are from at least nine countries, including six Latin American countries, and multiple faith communities.

Rescuers from Israel have come to the waterfront town to help local, state and federal agencies in their search efforts. Rescuers from Mexico are expected to arrive today.

Over the weekend, crews were able to carve out trenches, contain a deep rooted fire, and burrow into the collapse site to pull victims out as crews above ground used K9s, sonar and heavy equipment to locate the missing.

On Sunday, some family members were bussed from the reunification center to the site of the collapse to pay their respects and witness the efforts rescuers are making to bring their family home.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Newsroom Sunday that he will continue to support search and rescue operations until everyone is pulled out of the rubble. "I expect miracles. I'm expecting many miracles," he said.

Read more here.

6:15 a.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Miami-Dade mayor says fire that hampered search efforts is now "under control"

Crews work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Sunday, June 27, in Surfside, Florida.
Crews work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Sunday, June 27, in Surfside, Florida. Wilfredo Lee/AP

The fire that was hampering search efforts at the Surfside, Florida, building collapse site is now "under control" said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Sunday.

"Our teams have done an amazing job and yesterday we suppressed the fire that had been going out of control and the smoke that was inhibiting activities in certain parts of the pile, so around noon yesterday that was brought under control, making it possible for the search to continue in those areas as well," she said.