The latest on the partial building collapse near Miami

By Melissa Mahtani, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 11:21 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021
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2:09 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Catch up: What to know about the preliminary investigation of the condo collapse so far 

After Champlain Towers South partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, last Thursday, questions continue to be asked about the building’s structural integrity.

While the official cause of the collapse remains unknown, local and federal officials have begun efforts to try to determine why the building partially collapsed, and also prevent similar events from happening in neighboring buildings.

Here’s everything you need to know about the investigation so far:

  • Warnings before the collapse: An April 2021 letter from the condo's board president to residents said some damage observed in a 2018 engineer's report, including in the garage, "has gotten significantly worse." The 2018 report from an engineering firm documented severe structural damage to the concrete slab below the pool deck and "cracking and spalling" located in the parking garage. Spalling is a term used to describe areas of concrete that have cracked or crumbled.
  • The federal team: A group of federal officials from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is launching a preliminary investigation of the collapsed building's materials, history and applicable building codes at the time the condo was built, the ground surrounding the building and numerous other factors, according to an agency official. The six-person team includes scientists, structural engineers and a geotechnical engineer.
  • The timeline: Allyn Kilsheimer, the structural engineer hired by the town of Surfside to look into the reasons for the collapse, said his investigation could last a few months or longer, although an exact time frame is unknown. Kilsheimer said he has started examining the building and will use a meticulous, computer-assisted process of elimination to attempt to identify the cause or causes. "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," he explained. "You don't know what you're going to end up with until you finish the whole study."
  • Potential leads: Although it still remains unknown why the building partially collapsed, engineers who have reviewed the case say the investigation should focus on potential failures near the building’s base. According to Sinisa Kolar, a Miami-based engineering executive, forensic engineers will need to examine the ground-floor columns. In addition, Kolar expects investigators will test samples of concrete and cross-reference that with structural drawings. Meanwhile, Joel Figueroa-Vallines, president of SEP Engineers, said he thinks it's too early to reach conclusions, but also said he would focus an investigation on the foundation and the "podium level" of the pool deck. 
  • A possibly deadly combination: In addition to structural problems and “40 years of exposure to salt, water and salt air,” the collapse may have been influenced by vibrations from construction work, heavy equipment on the roof and water damage from the building’s pool, according to Mehrdad Sasani, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University.
  • What’s next: Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she will be meeting with experts in subject areas like engineering, geology, construction and legal fields to prevent this tragedy from happening again. “They will advise me on issues related to building construction, chain of custody and requirements for reporting, condominium regulation and more, so that my staff and I can develop a set of recommendations for changes that need to be made at all steps in the building process to ensure a tragedy like this will never, ever happen again,” she said. 

Read more about the rescue efforts and investigation here.

CNN's Curt Devine, Hollie Silverman, Alyssa Kraus, Deanna Hackney and Jamiel Lynch contributed reporting to this post. 

1:09 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami-Dade County mayor says she will support a grand jury investigation

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos and Amanda Watts

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Source: WPLG

The mayor of Miami-Dade County said Tuesday said she would support the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office opening a grand jury investigation into the catastrophic collapse at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, “the grand jury has not yet been impaneled,” but she has been speaking to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. 

CNN reached out to Fernandez Rundle’s office, who said a statement is forthcoming. 

“We were talking about whenever it is moving forward, that we will be fully on board,” Levine Cava said.

“I am very supportive of the grand jury investigation,” Levine Cava said. “I have pledged my full cooperation, as she moves forward.”

Levine Cava noted that she is very familiar with the grand jury process.

12:41 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Street closures stay in place around site of collapsed building

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Miami-Dade Police are warning people of traffic closures around the site of the collapse condo building in Surfside.

The department tweeted that Collins Avenue from 81st to 91st street is closed, in addition to Harding Avenue from 81st to 96th street.

Officials said the routes will still be open to residents, hotel staff and guests, and employees and customers of businesses.

At a news conference on Tuesday, the police department said officers are reevaluating the traffic closures on a daily basis.

Read the tweet:

12:34 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

More than 800 responders assisting with Surfside search and rescue effort, official says

From CNN's Tina Burnside 

More than 800 responders from 60 agencies are on the ground assisting with the search and rescue efforts in Surfside, Florida, according to Miami-Dade Deputy Incident Commander Charles Cyrille. 

During a news briefing on Tuesday, Cyrille said the unified search and rescue efforts consist of multiple departments to include police, water and sewer and county attorneys. 

This is in addition to the assistance being offered by federal state, local, international and not for profit organizations, Cyrille said. 

More than 440 state workers are also on the ground assisting with the search efforts, officials said. 

12:29 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

"Nobody is giving up hope here," Surfside mayor says

Surfside, Florida, Mayor Charles Burkett.
Surfside, Florida, Mayor Charles Burkett. Source: WPLG

As search and rescue operations entered their sixth day, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said "nobody is giving up hope."

"Nobody is giving up hope here. Nobody is stopping. The work goes on. Full force," he told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. 

"We’re dedicated to get everyone out of that pile of rubble, and reunite them with their families," he added. 

"We have all the resources, what I’ve been saying since the beginning. We don’t have a resource problem. We have a luck problem. As you know, we just got dumped on by some rain, but thankfully it looks like that’s clearing. But the work will go on. We’ll continue to work at 100%,” the mayor continued.

12:28 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Biden looking to federal investigation of condo collapse as he determines next steps

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Biden will look to recommendations from a federal safety panel as he steers the federal government's probe into what caused the collapse of a condo building near Miami.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would use the board's findings to determine how infrastructure like residential towers can be better fortified against catastrophic failure.

"They have announced they sent a team of six scientists and engineers to collect firsthand information on the towers, on the Champlain Towers South collapse, that will be used to determine if an investigation or study will be conducted," Psaki said in response to a question from CNN's Allie Malloy. "So obviously that would be something the President would support and certainly we would look to that if that’s a decision made to learn how we can help protect infrastructure across the country."

Psaki said the federal government's role now – in addition to providing resources – would be helping steer the investigation into what happened.

"We are providing every resource we can from the federal government, not just to help with the search and rescue operations but to be a part of any effort to determine if an investigation should happen moving forward," she said. "That’s something the President supports and that’s the way we can be constructive from the federal government."

12:37 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami-Dade fire chief: Rescue teams have removed 3 million pounds of concrete from the collapse site

Miami Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky.
Miami Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky. Source: WPLG

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said that rescue teams have removed 3 million pounds of concrete so far from the collapse site.

"We're moving debris piece by piece and searching through. We moved over approximately 3 million pounds of concrete at this time. That's over 850 cubic feet," Cominsky said at a press conference Tuesday. 

He noted that when they first arrived on the site after the collapse, Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue was able to remove 37 individuals. "We continue searching," he said.

12:37 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami-Dade County mayor says experts will advise her on building issues to prevent future tragedies

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said officials are taking “swift action” to address any issues with other buildings in the area that have not completed a 40-year recertification process.

Last night, a building officer notified a property in the county that four balconies must be immediately closed due to safety concerns, she said. 

Levine Cava also said that she will be meeting with experts in subject areas like engineering, geology, construction and legal fields.

“They will advise me on issues related to building construction, chain of custody and requirements for reporting, condominium regulation and more, so that my staff and I can develop a set of recommendations for changes that need to be made at all steps in the building process to ensure a tragedy like this will never, ever happen again,” she said. 

12:19 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Rescue efforts will continue to operate like victims are "missing until they are found," governor says

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Source: WPLG

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters search and rescue teams at the Champlain Towers South collapse will continue to operate like victims are “missing until they are found.”

“The way I look at it, as an old Navy guy is, you know, when somebody is missing in action in the military, you're missing until you're found, and we don't stop the search,” DeSantis said during a news conference Tuesday. “Those first responders are breaking their back trying to find anyone they can.” 

DeSantis remarked at the grueling and heroic search and recovery efforts.

“Those guys are out there, breaking their back on that pile, when they’re digging tunnels and putting themselves in harm's way to try to find a void, to try to find an area where they could potentially rescue people, they have that mission and they're doing it and they're not shirking from it,” DeSantis said. 

The governor said the search continues with such commitment because people's loved ones were inside those condominiums. 

“I just thank them for all their efforts and I thank them for leaving no stone unturned,” DeSantis said.