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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8:08 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Here's the latest on the Florida condo collapse

From CNN's Holly Yan and Hollie Silverman

While families endure a fifth day of anguish waiting learn the fate of 150 loved ones, a sobering reality is setting in.

"We know time is of the essence," Maggie Castro of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said Monday.

"We're still in a rescue mode, but as you can imagine, we're starting to understand that it's going to be less likely that we're going to be finding survivors."

No survivors have been found in more than a day in Surfside, Florida, where 55 condo units of Champlain Towers South crashed to the ground Thursday.

Here's the latest:

The search: The death toll rose to 11 after searchers found two victims Monday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. The number of missing people decreased to 150, and the number of people who have been accounted for increased to 136, the mayor said.

Florida State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said rescue workers are working day and night to find survivors. More than 400 rescue workers are assigned to the search, with about 200 scouring the wreckage at any given time, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said. The search has been treacherous, as rescuers have been stymied by fire and the constant threat of further collapse.

2018 report raises alarm: A 2018 report by the structural engineering firm Morabito Consultants "detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete," the firm said in a statement Saturday.

The report didn't say whether the structure was at risk of collapse, but the group said it provided an estimate to the condo association to "make the extensive and necessary repairs." The association retained Morabito again in June 2020 for the building's 40-year repair and restoration process, according to the statement.

The firm said it "exclusively provides" engineering consulting services and does not provide construction-related services.

"We are deeply troubled by this building collapse and are working closely with the investigating authorities to understand why the structure failed," Morabito Consultants said.

Residents raised concerns: Eliana Salzhauer, one of three town commissioners for Surfside, Florida, told CNN Sunday night that survivors of the collapse she encountered have said they felt shaking during construction on a nearby building in recent years. Salzhauer said some of the survivors told her they were bothered by the shaking of their building that occurred while a high-rise was being constructed next door. They told her there was shaking, cracking and water leaking in the garage, she said.

Read more about the collapse here.

7:46 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Family of missing woman say they are trying to stay hopeful

From CNN's Camille Furst

Judy Spiegel remains unaccounted for
Judy Spiegel remains unaccounted for Courtesy Spiegel family

The husband of a woman who remains missing following the condo collapse told CNN he was encouraged to see first responders working around the clock.

"I have 100% faith in a lot that's going on here," Kevin Spiegel told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday as he awaits word on his wife, Judy Spiegel.

He and his two sons, Josh and Michael Spiegel, also wish the process would move quicker. 

"Honestly, I think we all want more information. It's coming slowly," Michael Spiegel told CNN.

Officials have held two meetings over Zoom daily to update the families on the progress. "But we'd always like more information and we wish this process obviously is going a little quicker than it is," Michael Spiegel said.

Josh Spiegel, a surgeon in Orlando who has worked in the trauma unit, told Blitzer, "Out of all the things I've seen in my job, this takes everything to a whole other level. I don't think anything that I've seen through the horrific events I have seen matches this at all and to make it that much worse, it's personal."

"I understand the methods that they are using to try to get people out but we need them to work faster. I understand what the true time frame this needs to happen and the fact they've only been able to find 10 people so far is not reassuring but we're trying to stay very hopeful and we are just praying and praying for some good news," he added.

Kevin Spiegel and his wife lived in the building for five years. They will be married for 39 years this Thanksgiving.

"She's part of me. You can't divide the two. We're the same," he said.


7:46 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

State fire marshal describes dangerous conditions at collapse site: "We're not in a normal environment"

From CNN's Hannah Sarisohn

Lightning is presenting a challenge to rescue efforts as crews work to clear debris from the site of the Champlain Towers South condominium, State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said.

“The men and women of the task force as they are working on the hill removing debris to save lives, they are also standing on a giant piece of metal. All the rebar is an attraction to lightning,” Patronis told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during the Situation Room. “It can hamper their ability because when lightning strikes then they have to clear the site.

Patronis said the operation is still a search and rescue.

“We look at what happened in Haiti, eight days without food and water and where a woman was found after 28 days without access to water,” Patronis said. “The men and women, there's 368 that are working here right now, the dogs are an amazing part of their tool of trade that they work with. But as they work the site, they are hampered by incredibly large pieces of concrete, some of which they move weigh 25,000 pounds.”

Patronis said overnight teams moved a 25,000-pound piece of concrete, which wound up being a balcony. Patronis said moving debris of this size will shift the pile, so it requires numerous engineers to sign off on it.

“If the pile shifts while men and women are on it, they will go tumbling. If they go tumbling, then there's no telling what type of injury they can fall into because of rebar standing up like spikes. In a normal environment, those rebars will be covered with plastic caps,” Patronis said. “We're not in a normal environment.”

Patronis said rescue crews are working around the clock in 12-hour shifts. 

“You can imagine that the task force members from Miami-Dade and the city of Miami are a little more emotionally attached to this because this is their neighbors, their loved ones that are here. That is also an incredible motivator to all the other task forces and the efforts they have to support their brother and sisters in effort,” Patronis said. “I've seen the absolute best I can ever imagine right now. These men and women aren't pausing. They continue to have a type of momentum and motivation that is really, really inspiring. Proud to be here.”

6:55 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Town of Surfside hires structural engineer to study condo collapse

From CNN's Curt Devine

Allyn Kilsheimer, the structural engineer hired by the town of Surfside, Florida, to study Thursday’s condo collapse, said he has already begun examining the building and will use a meticulous, computer-assisted process of elimination to attempt to identify the causes of the disaster. 

He explained his process. 

“Generally speaking, you visit the site, you try to look at drawings to the extent they are available, you listen to all the clatter that happens when these things happen, and just keep that in the back of your head,” said Kilsheimer, the president of KCE Structural Engineers. “And then what I do is I come up with in my head a listing, based on my experience, of here are all the things that I think could cause this kind of a problem, and then you begin assessing all that information… and you eliminate those possibilities one at a time… and then as you’re doing this you come up with other possibilities.” 

“Unless it’s a plane or a bomb that you know triggered this whole thing, sometimes you can’t get it down to one cause. Sometimes… we don’t have enough information to decide between x, y and z, so it’s some combination of x, y and z,” he said. “But you don’t know what you’re going to end up with until you finish the whole study.” 

Asked how long the study could take, Kilsheimer responded, “There’s no way I can put a timeframe. We’ve done these things and much more minor things can take a few months, very major things [can] take a lot more than a few months.” 

Kilsheimer said the nature of this collapse could complicate the examination “because you don’t know what was there, even if you have drawings of what was supposed to be there.” He said construction never perfectly matches design, so the building may have differed from the drawings of its layout. 

“It’s a huge puzzle,” he said. 

Kilsheimer’s firm has consulted on other high-profile collapses, including that of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in 2018 and “the emergency recovery and restoration of the Pentagon after the September 11 attack,�� according to his firm’s site.



7:00 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Death toll in building collapse rises to 11

The death toll in the Surfside, Florida, building collapse has risen to 11, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

The number of people accounted for now stands at 136, and 150 people are unaccounted for, she said.

Levine Cava said the numbers are "very fluid and they will change."

"We are continually auditing the list and getting more calls and information from family members. Please stand by for more information," the mayor said.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava gives update:

5:59 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Miami-Dade mayor vows to "get to the bottom" of what went wrong in building collapse

From CNN's Deanna Hackney 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava CNN

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava vowed Monday to "get to the bottom of what went wrong" in Thursday's partial building collapse. 

"So, we're focused, as I've said, on the search and rescue, and the structural engineers are making sure that our rescue workers are safe, that the building that remains stays intact and so on, but of course it's all evidence, and we are going to get to the bottom of this, what went wrong," the mayor told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"We're going to make sure that it doesn't ever, ever happen again. And we can understand truly what are the structural risks that were taken here, if any,” she said.

Tapper questioned Levine Cava on the impression that Florida is a state where real estate developers have more power than regulators.

"I know there's going to be changes in the law, there will be changes at the state, and at the county and the city levels, and we have already started to the initiation of some changes that we could take administratively, and I know our county commission is going to be taking action," she said. "We have the best building code possible based on Hurricane Andrew's, lessons learned. Sad but true, we're going to learn from this devastating experience as well."


5:28 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Surfside official says 2018 report on building "reads like a standard inspection report"

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

Tina Paul, vice mayor of Surfside, told CNN’s Jake Tapper Monday that she saw the 2018 structural field survey report on the Champlain Towers South condominium and it "reads like a standard inspection report." 

"You have to realize these buildings are old. It depends on the maintenance, it depends on when they were built, and it depends on the level of maintenance they've been doing," Paul told Tapper. "A building like that should not collapse in this sort of way, based on routine maintenance."

Paul, however, added that there were "severe issues" in the report but "the work was starting to get underway." She noted that she personally was not aware of the report until it was released to the media, and she has never received any complaints. 

"Personally, I respond to my emails I respond to phone calls, and the issues that were brought to my attention was the beach path being closed, and only recently we had an issue about the tar smell from the roof repair. So those are the only things that came to my attention. I wish something had come to my attention I certainly would have looked into it,” she said.

4:26 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

First individual lawsuit filed against condo association over Surfside building collapse

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

The first individual lawsuit, and second overall, has been filed against the Champlain Towers South condominium association by a resident who survived Thursday's partial collapse. 

Plaintiff Steve Rosenthal's attorney Bob McKee said that his client is looking for an undisclosed amount of monetary compensation, as well as a jury trial. 

Rosenthal was standing right next to Champlain Tower South when it fell, McKee told CNN, and not only lost his home and his personal property, but inhaled "demolition dust that did who knows what to the immune system." 

According to the filing, the condominium association was negligent in "all aspects of reasonable care pertaining to its duties," which in turn "led to the horrific cause of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South, causing injury and damage to the Plaintiff and the loss of all of his real and personal property."

McKee said that events like the partial collapse at Champlain Towers South must not be allowed to happen again. 

"It's not a solitary event. The degradation of these buildings happens all the time," McKee said. "Will the collapse happen again? Maybe not. Who knows what will finally be the straw that breaks the back?" 

CNN has reached out to legal representation for the Champlain Towers South condominium association and has not received a response at this time. 

4:52 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Search and rescue physician "still hopeful" for survivors after building collapse

From CNN’s Camille Furst

 Dr. Benjamin Abo
Dr. Benjamin Abo CNN

The medical director of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1, Dr. Benjamin Abo, said he is "still hopeful" that his team will find survivors.

"I pray and I work hard hoping that we're going to get some more people," Abo told CNN Newsroom Monday afternoon. "But like I said, I'm cautiously optimistic as time goes on. And this is as a trained rescuer, and also a member of the community."

Abo told CNN's Alisyn Camerota that it's difficult to determine the chances of survival, since there are "just so many variables. We're talking more than 50 things," including the weather, what the victims were doing during the collapse, and what caused it in the first place.

For Abo, the rescue process is personal: he knows three people who were in the collapse. He continues to hold out hope that they are alive.

Abo has also found personal belongings when sifting through the debris, including toys, wedding photos and stuffed animals.

His team has transported belongings that are safe to move to a nearby shrine set up for the victims.

"As we continue with things, hopefully we get more survivors, but maybe these are things that are going to help bring closure and help us celebrate the lives of people as opposed to mourning the deaths," Abo said.