SURFSIDE, Fla. – Haunted by the recent tragedy in Surfside, some residents of ocean-side apartments in South Florida have been searching for information about the structural integrity of their condominiums. The residents of a Collins Avenue building with prior warnings in Miami Beach said they are horrified about what they found.
The fear started after Champlain Towers South, at 8777 Collins Ave., turned into the epicenter of heartbreak and grief on Thursday morning. Some of the residents of the Champlain Towers North and East decided to evacuate.
On Monday, several residents at Maison Grande Condominium, an 18-story building with 502 units, said they are worried about the safety of the 1971 building at 6039 Collins Ave., in Miami Beach. They have photographs showing corroded steel and concrete spalling.
Records show there have been five inspections that determined the building is an “unsafe structure.” The building envelope is among the list of concerns. There were also warnings that the two-story parking garage and pool deck “have reached the end of their useful life and require repair, replacement,” or “a combination thereof.”
On Nov. 19, 2020, a city official wrote, “Structure with evidence of spalling concrete. Need to submit a report signed and sealed by [an] engineer to evaluate the structure together with methods of repairs.” Near an entrance, there is a Dec. 28, 2020 red “unsafe structure” violation notice.
On Wednesday, people trusted Champlain Towers South was safe enough to sleep in. The 12-story northern section of the L-shaped building collapsed shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday. Residents of neighboring buildings said they woke up to loud noise. Some said their windows shook and there was a large white cloud of dust.
Fire Rescue personnel moved to evacuate trapped survivors who waited in their balconies for their turn to climb into a cherry picker. Survivors said it was an agonizingly slow process. An army of rescuers wearing hard hats moved in. Dogs started sniffing the scattered ruins. Experts from as far as Israel and Argentina arrived.
Search-and-rescue teams continued to tunnel through a compact mountain of pancaked concrete in hope of finding survivors Monday. They have been taking turns to search day and night while facing sporadic rain and spontaneous fires. Crews are using a crane to carefully remove hazardous metal and concrete. Authorities have a warehouse where they are keeping items recovered.
The death toll rose, as more than 150 people were unaccounted for. And as the world wondered how this could be possible in Florida, where hurricanes have forced officials to increase structural standards, a troublesome 2018 report surfaced. It shows engineers had reported there was structural damage at Champlain Towers South. Property owners were preparing to contribute their part in more than $9 million in projects.
Officials said the 1981 building was in the process of recertification, which is required every 40 years and involves scrutinizing every part of the residential property. Survivors filed a lawsuit against Champlain Towers South Condominium Association alleging there was negligence when a lack of maintenance led to the deterioration that they allege caused the collapse.
“It’s sad. And people ask me, ‘Where are you going to go? Where are you going to be?’ Well, for sure I am not getting a condo on the beach. That’s done,” said Steve Rosenthal, a survivor from Unit 705 who filed a lawsuit against the Champlain Towers South association.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said it’s going to take time to find out with certainty what exactly caused the tragedy. Engineers with The National Institute of Standards and Technology are collecting preliminary information to make a recommendation about whether or not a federal probe into the cause of the collapse is needed.
Related story: Geologist warned of instability in Surfside
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the findings of the NIST probe and other investigations could allow federal and state lawmakers to make changes to prevent a future tragedy. As countless unanswered questions lingered, the Miami-Dade Police Department was slowly releasing the identities and ages of the victims.
Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, died on Thursday on her way to the Aventura hospital after crews pulled her out of the rubble. Her 15-year-old son survived after he managed to get the attention of a neighbor who was near the rubble. Crews also recovered the body of Antonio Lozano, 83.
On Friday, crews found the bodies of Lozano’s wife, Gladys Lozano, 79, and Manuel “Manny” LaFont, 54. On Saturday, crews found the bodies of Luis Bermudez, 26, Ana Ortiz, 46, Marcus Guara, 52, and Leon Oliwkowicz, 80. On Sunday, crews found the body of Christina Beatriz Elvira Oliwkowicz, 74. On Monday, crews found Frank Kleinman, 55, and Michael Altman, 50.
Coverage on Monday
Coverage on Sunday
Coverage on Saturday
Coverage on Friday
Coverage on Thursday
Local 10 News Reporter Amy Viteri contributed to this report.