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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7:31 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami-Dade mayor pledges full cooperation as state attorney plans to call for grand jury investigation

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks at a briefing on Tuesday evening.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks at a briefing on Tuesday evening. WPLG

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told CNN the Florida state attorney would be calling for a grand jury to do an investigation of the Surfside collapse site, and on how a similar situation can be avoided in the future.

Levine Cava told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that she spoke with Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who is also the prosecutor for Miami-Dade County.

“We have pledged our full cooperation and support,” Cava said. “So, we're standing with her. We're eager to be part of the review and analysis. I've worked with the state attorney very closely on many previous grand jury reports, and I've taken action on those reports, because they really help us to identify concerns.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the state attorney did not go as far, saying only, “I plan to request that our Grand Jury look at what steps we can take to safeguard our residents without jeopardizing any scientific, public safety, or potential criminal investigations.” 

Fernandez Rundle assured that she would not do anything to jeopardize the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s investigative findings in the process. “However, this is a matter of extreme public importance, and as the State Attorney elected to keep this community safe, I will not wait,” she added.

According to the release from Fernandez Rundle, her office deployed senior prosecutors to the disaster site to collaborate with the engineers and other investigators the morning of the collapse and sent victim specialists to the site to help grieving friends and family members.

7:08 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

She lost her father to Covid-19. Now her mother is unaccounted for in the Surfside condo collapse

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Magaly “Maggie” Ramsey, whose mother is among the 149 people unaccounted for, said she'd like to speak with President Biden when he visits on Thursday and hopes the government can bring accountability for the “very poor decisions” that led to the building collapse.

“I would love to tell [President Biden and first lady Jill Biden] how I feel and I would like to stop this from ever happening again because I feel like some very poor decisions were made and it robbed me from saying goodbye to my mother," Ramsey said.

She went on to describe how the loss of her mother added to the grief she already felt from losing her father to Covid-19 in August 2020.

"I didn't get to hold him. I didn't get to say goodbye. I didn't get to say goodbye to my mother," she said. "I want a sense of accountability for that. I know I am hoping the government does intercede to provide that."

Ramsey said she also wants answers as a way to honor her mother’s life and legacy. 

“She would want me to be patient and whatever the reasons this occurred, for that to come out,” said Ramsey. “...My prayer has shifted from optimally finding her alive to at least, God willing, finding her body."

When asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for her final thoughts, Ramsey offered words of comfort for all who are grieving. 

“Composure, faith, believe in God, she’s in God’s grace. We are here temporary, we are there full-time," she concluded.

8:11 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Death toll rises to 12 in Surfside building collapse

The death toll for the Surfside building collapse rose to 12, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday.

The total number of people unaccounted for is now 149 and the number of people accounted for is 125, Levine Cava said during the latest update on search and rescue efforts.

The mayor also said that the audit of those unaccounted for remains a tedious effort due to duplication of information.

"Over the past few days, we have been conducting an audit of our list of missing persons and we have been working to verify and remove duplicates wherever possible," she said. "I hope you can understand, we're getting information from lots of different sources and often not complete so it is very important that we go through to cull the list."

Detectives have been working around the clock, she said, "to get in touch with all those that have been identified and reaching out to provide information to verify the reports."

Levine Cava asked for patience as they continue to work through the audit, which she described as "a slow and methodical process."

6:32 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Lawyers for condo resident have begun subpoenaing documents from firm hired to do repairs after 2018 survey

From CNN's David Shortell

Lawyers representing a resident of Champlain Towers South who is suing the building’s condominium association have begun the process of subpoenaing documents from an engineering firm that had been hired to complete repairs on the building after conducting a 2018 survey. 

The lawyers have also formally said they intend to request documents from the condominium association pertaining to the building’s integrity and other matters, according to Brad Sohn, an attorney on the case.

Both requests for discovery — a routine step in a civil lawsuit like this — were detailed in filings before the Florida court where the class action case is being heard. They were not yet available via a public docket. Sohn provided the filing related to the engineering firm to CNN.

The suit, on behalf of Manuel Drezner who lived in unit 1009 of the tower, was filed on Thursday, making it the first civil action after the building's collapse earlier that day. 

Sohn said his firm has talked to a number of other residents of the tower in recent days who have expressed interest in joining the suit. Morabito Consultants, the engineering firm, is not a defendant in the suit, which was levied against the condominium association.

The subpoena that's included in the filing is requesting “all documents, electronic records, and communications that refer, relate to, or concern Champlain Towers South and Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc” from the engineering firm.

In the filing, the lawyers also say they intend to subpoena similar documents from the town of Surfside, Florida, where the tower that collapsed is located, as well as other companies in the south Florida area connected to the building, including contractors who studied moisture levels on the building’s roof.

Frank Moribato, the president of Morabito Consultants, found “major structural damage” to an area of concrete beneath the building’s pool deck during a 2018 inspection and was hired by the condominium association in 2019 to complete repairs.

The filing shared with CNN amounts to a notification to the court and the condominium association that Drezner, the plaintiff, is planning to issue the subpoenas. After a 10-day wait period, the subpoenas will likely be issued, giving the recipients 15 days to produce the requested documents.


9:03 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

First responder describes harrowing moments after collapse in dispatch audio

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Hannah Sarisohn

Champlain Towers South condo is seen following a partial collapse of the building on June 24 in Surfside, Florida.
Champlain Towers South condo is seen following a partial collapse of the building on June 24 in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In dispatch audio obtained by CNN from Broadcastify, a first responder tells dispatch that he has arrived on scene at a 13-story building with most of the building gone.

The first responder goes on to later say, “this building does not look stable.”

“A quarter of the building that’s left – we still have people standing upstairs that still need to be evacuated,” he tells dispatch.

“I see many people on their balconies. The building is gone. There’s no elevators. This is nothing. I mean, it almost resembles the Trade Center,” he says.

4:13 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Increase in high-tide flooding is eroding coastal infrastructure and seen as a risk, engineer says

From CNN's Rachel Ramirez

Older buildings like the one in Surfside, Florida, are frequently seeing sea level rise and saltwater intrusion as greater risks, a structural engineer tells CNN.

Ben Schafer, a structural engineer at Johns Hopkins University, says civil engineers need to rethink how buildings are designed and how older buildings need to be reassessed.

“Climate change is changing the demands on all of our buildings across the US,” Schafer told CNN. “Sea level rise is one example of something that’s much broader. All of us are experiencing this, and just as we’re experiencing it all our buildings are experiencing it as well. In many cases, they’re facing demands that weren’t anticipated when we designed them in the past.”

Buildings with concrete and steel reinforcements aren’t designed to be submersed in sea water, which it damages concrete and corrodes the steel. As sea level rises, more tidal flooding will bring in more saltwater into coastal infrastructure. 

“The life of the structure would be greatly shortened,” he adds. “It’s a corrosive environment. It’s not favorable for concrete or steel, which are your primary building materials.”

If climate change was in fact a contributing factor to the building collapse, Schafer adds that engineers must learn from the tragic event and implement climate mitigation systems.  

“I don’t think we’ve owned up even to the scale of the problem,” Schafer said. “If you look at the median sea level-rise predictions and project that on to city maps, the scale of what we need to do is so far beyond the scale of what we’re so far considering,” he said.

3:26 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Sea level in Surfside has likely risen around 7 to 8 inches in the past 40 years, researcher says

From CNN's Rachel Ramirez

Sea level in Surfside, Florida, has risen roughly 7 to 8 inches in the past 40 years, due mainly to human-caused climate change, according to Brian McNoldy, a climate and weather researcher at the University of Miami.

The higher sea level increases the frequency of high-tide floods in the Miami area.

As sea level rises, McNoldy said, salt water can degrade infrastructure and infiltrate freshwater wells.

While being careful not to assign blame for the Surfside condo collapse, McNoldy added, “I don’t think I need to be an engineer to conclude this, but any time things are submerged in saltwater, it becomes harsh on them — it doesn’t matter what that material is.”

“We do know that in the past 25 years, sea level has risen almost 6 inches [in the Miami area]," McNoldy told CNN. "If we go back 40 years, we’ve probably seen about 7 to 8 inches of sea level rise and what that does, some low-lying places that maybe didn’t used to flood are starting to now, and places that maybe always did have some issues during exceptionally high tides have even worse issues now.”

McNoldy stressed that the sea level rise has been “across the board around here,” indicating that the influx of rising sea water would be affecting all the structures along the coastline.

3:21 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Structural engineer investigates possible triggers for Florida condo collapse

From CNN’s Camille Furst

A structural engineer from Washington, DC, has been called to investigate the Florida condo collapse by the town of Surfside.

Allyn Kilsheimer, the chairman of the board of KCE Structural Engineers, a Washington, DC, firm, told CNN correspondent Brian Todd on Tuesday that he has about 30 theories for what could've triggered the condo to collapse just after midnight on Thursday.

He was asked to visit by an attorney on behalf of Surfside, Florida, on Friday morning, and arrived that afternoon. 

"In a situation like this, most probably, it would not be one condition alone that would cause this," Kilsheimer said.

He told CNN that possible triggers could be "an explosion from below, a car hitting a column, problems with the roof slab collapsing down and therefore dropping everything else, problems in the foundation, all that kind of stuff."

From what Kilsheimer has initially investigated, he said that he hasn't seen anything from the condo that told him people needed to get out of that building immediately.

So far, Kilsheimer said he's had access to the perimeter of the site, but "should have access to various portions of the site and the building during the day today."

Kilsheimer also inspected the garages of nearby buildings. He said, "I didn't see anything that would make me think the buildings are in danger of collapse."

For those who are concerned about their own condos, Kilsheimer suggests hiring a registered Florida structural engineer, "not an inspector, not an architect, not a contractor. A structural engineer."

2:54 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami-Dade County mayor says a potential grand jury would look into what contributed to the collapse

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Rosa Flores

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks to the media during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on June 28.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks to the media during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on June 28. Jose A Iglesias/Miami Herald/AP

The mayor of Miami-Dade County said Tuesday 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.

“The grand jury can choose to investigate anything it chooses,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “In this case it would be the matter of this building collapse, and what is contributed, and what should be done.”

Levine Cava said there is currently a grand jury impaneled which is working on other issues. It has not been decided if they would take up this case, or if it would fall to the next grand jury that is seated. 

The mayor promised she will do everything she can to ensure this does not happen again. “This will never ever happen again, not on my watch. We are going to do everything we possibly can to ensure that," Levine Cava said.

Earlier today, she said she has been speaking to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle about the matter.