Stimulus Check Up | Apr 8, 2022 | 0
Identities released of 3 additional victims in Surfside partial building collapse
The Miami Dade Police Department has released the identities of three additional victims of the Champlain Towers South partial building collapse.
In addition, the remains of a 7-year-old girl were recovered Friday, but her identity is being withheld at the request of her family.
The three victims are Bonnie Epstein, 56, Claudio Bonnefoy, 85, and Maria Obias-Bonnefoy, 69.
Concrete Protection and Restoration LLC released a statement Friday saying the company did not repair or restore concrete in 2020 on Champlain Towers South.
The company outlines the work they performed for Morabito Consultants’ investigation ahead of the condo’s 40-year recertification.
“Our company was contacted by the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association in 2020 to assist Morabito Consultants in their investigations relative to the building’s 40-year recertification project. Concrete Protection & Restoration, LLC did not undertake any actual concrete repair or restoration work on the Champlain Towers South building in 2020,” the statement said.
The statement added: “Our services on this project were directed by Morabito Consultants so they could evaluate the building for its 40-year recertification. We removed loose, cracked, spalled, deteriorated and delaminated concrete from the balcony soffits of 114 units as well as pool corbels to prevent it from falling, and removed all deteriorated, debonded and falling stucco from balconies. We also did exploratory services that involved removing pavers on the patio deck to allow the engineers to see conditions underneath and removing the false ceiling in the front parking area to enable the engineers to see the underside of the slab. Additional exploratory services included taking core samples from locations identified by Morabito Consultants so their engineers could analyze the existing condition of the concrete. The 40-year recertification project was out to bid with multiple contractors at the time of the tragedy.”
Six cases of Covid-19 have developed among the search and rescue operations at Surfside, Florida, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky.
At a news conference Friday evening, Cominsky said that the outbreak was among one of the teams from Florida.
“So we do have our medical procedures in place, you know, unfortunately, this is another challenge but something that we’ve been dealing with for over the past year,” Cominsky said.
The task force that contained the positive Covid-19 has been “demobilized,” according to the chief, and protocols, including isolation, were put into place.
Based on a late recertification report submitted to the City of North Miami Beach today, the city determined a Crestview Towers Condominium building is unsafe and has ordered the immediate evacuation and closure of the building, Arthur H. Sorey, city manager, announced this evening.
The city ordered the immediate closure for unsafe structural and electrical conditions following the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside last week, which launched a review by North Miami Beach of all high-rise condo buildings above five stories.
Crestview Towers submitted a recertification report dated Jan. 11, 2021, in which an engineer attained by the condo association concluded that the 156 unit building was structurally and electrically unsafe.
Crestview Towers was built in 1972, according to Sorey. According to Sorey, the building should have been in its 40-year recertification process, but they hadn’t been in compliance.
“And that’s what pushed us to push the issue of their compliance and then that’s when they submitted their report,” the city manager said, adding a 30-day notice of closure was posted by the city yesterday and the condo’s report was submitted to the city around 2 p.m. Friday.
According to the city manager, the report mentions concrete and electrical problems.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava provided some insight into how first responders and families in Surfside, Florida, are coping as search and rescue efforts continue at the condo collapse site.
“This is so excruciating for everyone, the waiting and waiting and hoping and praying for the families, especially, of course, and also for the first responders. This is really their passion. It’s a calling for them. They rush back to the scene,” the mayor told CNN this afternoon. “They don’t want to miss any opportunity, any moment to be saving lives. And, so, it’s just been a nightmare scenario for everyone involved.”
The number of lives lost following the condo collapse has risen to 22, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said this afternoon during a news conference.
“[O]ver the course of today’s search, we did recover two additional victims. We now have 22 confirmed deaths; 188 people accounted for and 126 unaccounted for. Our detectives are continually editing this list as we verify every single report that we have received regarding a potentially missing person. And, as a result, these numbers will continue to change as we’ve told you so often,” Levine Cava said.
Levine Cava also said she signed an emergency order “authorizing the demolition of the building in the interest of public health and safety as soon as the engineers sign off on the next steps to begin the demolition process.”
The White House announced Friday it was increasing “the level of federal funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures undertaken in the state of Florida as a result of the Surfside building collapse beginning on June 24, 2021, and continuing.”
“Under the President’s order today, the federal share for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program has been increased to 100% of the total eligible costs for a continuous period of 30 days beginning June 24, 2021,” the declaration said.
Some context: Biden hinted at the announcement yesterday in Florida, telling reporters after he met with the families of those missing in the Surfside collapse, “I think my colleagues will tell you we cut through the bureaucracy.”
“The one — the one order I gave federal folks was, ‘No bureaucracy. Just cut through it. Get to whatever they need.’ That’s why we’ve decided to cover, for example, 100% of the search-and-rescue costs for the first 30 days. Not done often but necessary here, in my view,” he continued.
As families mourn and worry for their loved ones, some Surfside residents and officials are criticizing the management of the building, saying more should have been done to prevent the structure from crashing down in the middle of the night last week.
Officials say they still haven’t found what triggered the collapse.
From an early construction halt to assurances that the building was fine, here is what we know so far about the damage and repairs the condo underwent:
- Early halts to construction: Before Champlain Towers South and its sister building opened, there was controversy around its construction, which violated local regulations, documents show. The Surfside acting town manager at the time, George Curti, told the building complex’s contractor in a Dec. 2, 1980, letter that “you are instructed to immediately cease any further construction on any penthouses” at either of the Champlain Towers buildings. The town attorney had determined that the penthouses were “a violation of the Code of the Town of Surfside,” Curti wrote. The following week, the town council passed an ordinance granting the buildings an exception, allowing the penthouse construction to go forward, Curti wrote in a follow-up letter on Dec. 11. The decades-old controversy was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Monday. The issue was over the buildings’ height: The penthouses had not been in the original plans and they brought both buildings above the town’s 12-story height limit, the Journal reported.
- The 2018 report: Maryland-based Morabito Consultants performed a structural analysis of the building as part of Champlain Towers South’s 40-year recertification effort — a stringent process for updates and improvements enacted after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Morabito Consultants’ structural field survey had noted “abundant cracking and spalling” in concrete columns and walls, “exposed, deteriorating rebar” and failing waterproofing beneath the pool deck and entrance drive that was causing “major structural damage.”
- 2020 letter highlights extensive damage and attempted repairs: A 2020 letter from Morabito Consultants to association board president Jean Wodnicki gave a nine-page summary of the extent of the damage and the work that was being done to address it. All the loose concrete around the perimeter of the pool pump room that showed signs of cracking, spalling and deterioration and that presented a “fall hazard” was removed by a concrete restoration firm, according to the work summary. But not all of the work could be completed at the time, according to the letter.
- “The concrete deterioration is accelerating”: After inspecting the building in 2018, Morabito wrote in his report that “failed waterproofing” below the pool deck was “causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas” and warned that failure to replace it in the near future would cause “concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” A 2021 letter to the building residents from the condominium association’s president confirmed that the exponential deterioration had indeed taken place in the interim years. “The concrete deterioration is accelerating,” wrote Jean Wodnicki, the association president. “The observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial  inspection.”
- An estimated $15 million in repairs needed: The condo association debated an estimated $9 million in repairs to the building in 2018, and disputes over the lackluster response in tackling the repairs led to five of the seven board members resigning that year, the Washington Post reported, citing board meeting minutes and association president Anette Goldstein’s resignation letter. The estimated cost for repairs had grown to about $15 million by the time the work was approved by the board in 2021, according to an assessment letter obtained by CNN. Those costs were to be paid by the residents.
Read more about the building’s damage and repairs here.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday that “it is important to stress….that a demolition cannot be done overnight; in fact, it takes weeks to demolish a building.”
Levine Cava said during a briefing that county officials have “had a couple of meetings with the engineers” regarding plans to demolish the remaining structure from the collapse site.
“They’re meeting regularly to look at exactly what will be the process, and we are going to move expeditiously…on decision-making, but it will take some time for the demolition to occur,” the mayor said.
“We’re proceeding with our evaluation of all of the factors, all of the time, and the impacts related to the demolition of the building,” Levine Cava explained.
Some more context: Officials have been considering demolishing the rest of the condo as operations continue in sections that crumbled to the ground a week ago, Levine Cava said Thursday evening.
Work on the debris was halted for much of the day yesterday as engineers assessed the structure still standing. Levine Cava told reporters at an evening news conference the operation resumed at about 4:45 p.m. ET. Engineers are conducting ongoing testing and evaluations of the site to expand the search into more areas as it becomes safe to do so, she said.
CNN’s Theresa Waldrop, Madeline Holcombe and Steve Almasy contributed reporting to this post.