Why investigators still don’t know what caused the Surfside condo to fall

SURFSIDE, Fla. – A year later, the website where the South Champlain Tower once stood remains an empty reminder of tragedy, failure and devastating loss.

A year later, the now dug ground also remains empty of answers to how and why the beachfront condo building collapsed into a mangled mess of metal, concrete and memories.

Allyn Kilsheimer is a world-renowned structural engineer and was employed by the City of Surfside to independently investigate what caused the 40-year-old apartment to collapse.

To date, there are no solutions.

“We don’t have a factual determination of why this happened at this point,” he said in a recent Surfside interview. “It’s definitely one of the most frustrating from a complexity standpoint.”

Kilsheimer had originally planned to have solutions by the anniversary year of the building’s collapse, but, he said, family disputes, ongoing investigations by police and federal law enforcement authorities investigation contributed to his team’s delay in accessing supplies and structural particles.

But, he said, in 12 months he didn’t omit much about what might have contributed to the building’s sudden and stunning demise.

“I think I pretty much eliminated some of the ideas that people were saying when the Navy was blowing up ships in the ocean that caused it, things like that that were sort of out of left field,” did he declare.

The same goes for investigators from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).

“Right now we have about two dozen hypotheses about what might have happened,” said Glenn Bell, who is co-leading the Fed investigation.

“I’ve been doing this type of work for over 40 years and this is perhaps the most complex and challenging survey of its kind ever undertaken,” Bell said.

To date, groups have cataloged and analyzed supplies, measurements have been taken, and 3D imagery has been created that could be used for future examination.

Invasive tests will come next and allow investigators to turn into concrete and metal to find clues.

Interviews with witnesses and first responders and anyone else who may have seen, heard or recognized something are continuing and are welcomed by the federal government.

It is widely acknowledged that the 136-unit condominium had issues. Shortly after the collapse, surviving residents shared stories of the building’s growing indicators of destruction and disrepair, which they said were repeatedly ignored. Residents pointed to disagreements between the tower owners’ affiliation and residents not having to pay high assessment fees as some of the reasons for the construction had long standing spots.

Some of the injuries, which included cracks in the tower storage and under the pool deck, were also documented in 2018 and described as “major structural damage” by an engineering agency as part of the recertification of 40 years of building. Recertification work was just beginning when the tower collapsed.

Since its collapse, Florida lawmakers have issued a bill to improve the frequency of such inspections. NIST can even weigh in with a series of recent suggestions mostly based on its findings.

But a year later, what caused its crash and the deaths of 98 men, women and children will likely be summed up by various elements that took time to build and will take investigators longer to untangle.

“Everyone wants these questions answered, for a good reason,” Bell said. “It’s difficult for us because we have to carry out a thorough investigation and it will take time,” he said. Bell expects the federal investigation won’t be complete until fall 2023, with recommendations launched a year later.

Allyn Kilsheimer hopes that he will have solutions sooner from his impartial investigation.

“I promised the people of Surfside that I would find out what happened so I could tell people that if you see this kind of thing in your building you need to have someone else look at it. pretty quickly,” he said. .

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