A bombshell report released just last fall revealed extensive concrete deterioration and corrosion of steel reinforcements had been found at the now collapsed Champlain Towers South.
The damage had grown so bad that repair work was put on hold over fears that even performing it could endanger the stability of surrounding buildings.
That ominous assessment was carried out in October 2020 by the firm Concrete Protection and Restoration and Morabito Consultants.
It was led by structural engineer Frank Morabito, who both found several issues including a potentially deep deterioration of concrete near the pool area, and who performed prior inspections on the same building as far back as 2018, which yielded similarly worrying results.
But the repair and restoration work ‘could not be performed’ because the pool ‘was to remain in service for the duration of the work’ and because bringing in necessary equipment required to conduct the excavation of concrete at the pool ‘could affect the stability of the remaining adjacent concrete constructions.’
An aerial view of the site during a rescue operation of the Champlain Tower partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, pictured on Thursday
Drilling took place up to a foot down in order to determine the structure of the concrete below. The work ‘yielded some curious results as it pertained to the structural slab’s depth’ – but the reason as to why the results were ‘curious’ was not explained
The 2020 report details how at five sites, paving stones were lifted, concrete demolished and landscaping was removed in order to access what lie underneath
Although the report may not specifically identify what caused last weeks collapse of the north Miami condo, the documents highlight the state of disrepair the building had been allowed to languish, and may have played some part.
At the very least, issues appear to have been downplayed, ignored or put off from being addressed and rectified.
The report from last October, which was seen by USA Today, was reported to the condo board and building owners in phases rather than comprehensively which may have had the unfortunate affect of obscuring just how serious the problem was.
As of Friday morning, 18 people had been confirmed dead with 145 still missing.
Buildings in Miami-Dade County need to be recertified every 40 years. Morabito Consultants were hired by the Champlain Tower South Condominium Association to perform an inspection and conduct repairs which were to be completed by this year.
A close up of the rubble taken on June 24, just a few hours after the collapse, show how part of the pool deck had given way to and crumbled
Its report warned of major damage near the pool area.
The report also noted issues with the wall and edge of the swimming pool, deteriorated stair columns and deteriorated concrete in balcony fittings, likely caused by corrosion.
Morabito also reported removing loose and cracked concrete around the swimming pool area and in the pool’s pump room, likely as a result of corrosion of the steel rebar, within the concrete.
Standing water was also photographed in the pool equipment room.
Building staffers explained how the equipment room would need to be pumped out so frequently that pump motors were replaced every two years.
Any corrosion due to sea water or salt would have expanded the rebar and then damaged the concrete surrounding it.
The October 2020 report concluded that repairs were not going to be possible for several reasons.
Photos from a 2018 report show spalling with exposed steel reinforcement in the garage area of the condo building
Morabito suggested that the damage was deep within the wall surrounding the pool and that it would not be able to access the inside of the pool because it was still being used by the building’s residents.
Secondly, the amount of excavation that would be needed to fix the areas could affect the stability of other buildings nearby, including the towers.
‘It’s expensive to fix, and you can’t simply repair damage that is this extensive – you need to replace the damaged reinforcement and concrete,’ Dawn Lehman, a professor of engineering at the University of Washington, said of the findings.
‘There’s no way that a structural member that has sustained that amount of concrete degradation and corrosion has the intended structural integrity; its structural performance has been compromised. But that’s not the same as causing a building collapse,’ she said.
Morabito also conducted some ‘exploratory demolition’ around the pool area in an attempt to uncover if problems were hidden by architectural but not structural portions of the building.
The report details how at five sites, paving stones were lifted, concrete demolished and landscaping was removed in order to access what lies underneath.
Photos taken less than 48 hours before the collapse in the pool equipment room located in the basement parking garage, show extensive concrete spalling and corroded rebar
A contractor took these photos and noticed that in the actual parking garage, there were puddles of water which were in the direct spot beneath the leaking pool deck
Drilling took place up to a foot down in order to determine the structure of the concrete below.
The work ‘yielded some curious results as it pertained to the structural slab’s depth’ – but the reason as to why the results were ‘curious’ was not explained.
After the findings were revealed to the owners, the cost of the repairs at $7 million was a constant source of frustration among the residents.
As recently as April, the condo association’s president wrote to owners informing them the deterioration of the building’s concrete was ‘accelerating’ and the repair price tag had now soared to $16.2 million.
Another report by Morabito, a couple of years earlier in November 2018, still cited the need for repairs but at a far lower cost of $9.13 million.
Rosendo Prieto, the chief building official of Surfside until November 2020, reviewed the report telling the Champlain Tower South Condominium Association ‘it appears the building is in very good shape.’ Prieto was placed on leave from his new job as a buildings official in nearby Doral Tuesday.
Rescue efforts at the Miami condo tower were forced to come to a halt Thursday amid fears the remaining structure could topple on search and rescue teams
Search and rescue teams look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story condo
On Wednesday, the body of Magaly Delgado, 80, was recovered.
She was identified by the Miami-Dade Police Department as a victim of the collapse on Thursday and lived on the ninth floor.
Delgado was born in Cuba and taught herself English when she moved to the U.S., daughter Magaly Ramsey said, describing her mother as a ‘hardheaded’ and ‘independent’ woman. Ramsey had said she was hoping for a ‘miracle.’
‘If there’s one 80-year-old woman that might survive, it would have been my mother,’ her Ramsey told the Palm Beach Post.
On Wednesday, the body of Magaly Delgado, 80 was recovered from the building. She was identified on Thursday. Delgago had lived on the ninth floor of the condo
‘If there’s one 80-year-old woman that might survive, it would have been my mother,’ her daughter Magaly Ramsey, right, said
On Thursday it was revealed Florida officials are working on plans to tear down what’s left of the partially collapsed oceanfront condominium.
After rescue efforts resumed Thursday evening, officials said they had started planning for the likely demolition of the remaining structure even as searchers continue to comb the rubble pile beneath it.
Scott Nacheman, a FEMA structures specialist, said engineers are looking at different methods for the demolition and how to proceed ‘to make the site safe for ongoing rescue operations.’
Nacheman said that if the building comes down, there initially would be a slowdown in the rescue operation. But he said the demolition of the structure would create a safer working environment that could allow more personnel on the site and accelerate the pace of the work.
He said it would likely be weeks before officials schedule the demolition.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the decision about the demolition needs to be made ‘extremely carefully and methodically,’ considering the potential impact on the pile of debris and the effect on the search.
The rescue work was halted early Thursday after crews noticed widening cracks and up to a foot of movement in a large column.
Work resumed shortly before 5pm after the site was evaluated by structural engineers, Cava said, describing firefighters as ‘really, really excited out there.’
‘We will continue to search feverishly, as we have done all along in the parts of the collapse that we currently have access to,’ she said.
The work stoppage had threatened to dim hopes for finding anyone alive in the debris a week after the tower came down. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the halt was worrisome since ‘minutes and hours matter, lives are at stake.’
Search-and-rescue crews have faced difficult conditions at the site of the collapsed building and had to endure thunderstorms almost every day.
The collapse site is now in danger of being hammered by Tropical Storm Elsa which is charting its path across the Atlantic this week
All of South Florida including Miami-Dade is now in its potential path to be hit Monday or Tuesday
A tropical storm, Elsa, is on its way to the area although the National Hurricane Center has said it is too soon to determine what effect the storm might have on Florida.
Florida officials say they are prepared for to deal with a tropical storm should one arrive.
‘We have done this before where we have responded to multiple emergencies in the state at the same time,’ said Kevin Guthrie, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management during a press conference earlier in the week.
Also on Thursday, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited the devastated community.
‘This is life and death,’ Biden said during a briefing. ‘We can do it, just the simple act of everyone doing what needs to be done, makes a difference.’
‘There’s gonna be a lot of pain and anxiety and suffering and even the need for psychological help in the days and months that follow,’ he said. ‘And so, we’re not going anywhere.’
During a private meeting with family members, Biden drew on his own experiences with grief to try to comfort them. Biden lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car crash and decades later lost an adult son to brain cancer.
‘I just wish there was something I could do to ease the pain,’ he said in a video posted on Instagram by Jacqueline Patoka, a woman who was close to a couple and their daughter who are still missing.
Biden spoke of wanting to switch places with a lost or missing loved one. ‘The waiting, the waiting is unbearable,’ he said.
The cause of the collapse is under investigation.
‘What you’re doing is incredible,’ President Joe Biden told first responders are responding to the tragic building collapse in Surfside, Florida
THE MIAMI CONDO COLLAPSE VICTIMS IDENTIFIED SO FAR
54-year-old Stacie Fang
STACIE DAWN FANG
Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, was with her son Jonah Handler, a teenager, when the building collapsed. They lived on the tenth floor. The boy’s small hand waved through the wreckage as a man out walking his dog hurried to the site, climbed through a pile of glass and rebar and promised to get help right away.
Rescuers helped the boy out from under a pile of cement and carried him away on a stretcher to a hospital.
‘There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,’ members of her family said in a statement. ‘Many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time.’
Asked about the boy’s condition, a family friend, Lisa Mozloom told the AP ‘He will be fine. He’s a miracle.’
Manuel LaFont, 54
Manuel LaFont, 54, was a proud father, a baseball fan and a business consultant who lived on the building’s eighth floor.
He had a 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter with his ex-wife Adriana LaFont, the Miami Herald reported.
Adriana asked her friends on Facebook to pray the rosary for Manny before his body was found. ‘So many memories inside the walls that are no more today, forever engraved experiences in the heart,’ she wrote.
LaFont, a Houston native, coached his son’s baseball team, the Astros, at North Shore Park, just a mile away from the Champlain. He was a parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach. The parish’s school parents gathered Saturday afternoon to pray for LaFont and his neighbors who were still missing.
An alumnus of Sharpstown High School in Houston, LaFont had worked across Latin America and the Caribbean for a manufacturing firm, leading a division focusing on roadway safety that built crash cushions and moveable barriers, the Herald reported.
‘I got into this industry specifically because I don’t want to sell widgets. I want to help people. I want to do something good in this world,’ he said at an industry conference in 2016. ‘When I die, I want to say that my life meant something.’
ANTONIO AND GLADYS LOZANO
Antonio and Gladys Lozano
Antonio and Gladys Lozano lived on the ninth floor. The two had known each other over 60 years and would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on July 21.
Their sons told WPLG-TV that the couple had joked neither wanted to die before the other, because neither wanted to live without the other. Their one solace, the brothers said, was that they were together when they died.
Authorities confirmed on Saturday that Antonio, 83, and Gladys, 79, were among the dead.
Sergio Lozano said he had dinner with his parents hours before the collapse. He lived in one of the towers of the complex and could see his parents’ apartment across the way from his. That night, he said the heard a loud noise they thought could be a storm.
‘The building is not there,’ he said he told his wife. ‘My parents’ apartment is not there. It’s gone.’
ANA ORTIZ, HER HUSBAND FRANK AND HER SON LUIZ
Ana Ortiz, left, and her son Luis Bermudez and Leon Oliwkowicz and his wife Christina (right)
Luis Bermudez, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, had battled with muscular dystrophy for years and used a wheelchair. The 26-year-old man lived with his mother Ana Ortiz on the seventh floor of the Champlain Towers South.
His father, also named Luis Bermudez, texted the AP saying ‘my son is a hero.’ He also wrote on Facebook that he could not believe he’s gone.
‘Now rest in peace and without any obstacles in heaven,’ he wrote. ‘I will see you soon my Luiyo.’
Ortiz, 46, had just gotten married with Frankie Kleiman. Alex Garcia, the couple’s close friend, told The Miami Herald he had set them up on a blind date. Kleiman lived with his wife and stepson on the same floor as his brother Jay Kleiman, who was in town for a funeral, and their mother Nancy Kress Levin. The Kleimans and their mother are still missing.
50-year-old Frank Kleiman, left, was found on Monday. He was Ana’s husband
Ortiz was described as a woman who was committed to giving her son the best possible life.
‘She´s a rock star. And gorgeous,” Garcia told the Herald. “And on top of that a super mom.
Kleiman, 50, was the husband of Ana Ortiz, whose body was found alongside that of her disabled son, Luiz, over the weekend.
LEON AND CHRISTINA OLIWKOWICZ
Leon Oliwkowicz and his wife Christina were also identified as victims of the tower collapse on Sunday evening
The couple lived on the 8th floor of the condo tower for several years, according to Venezuelan journalist Shirley Varnagy, a close friend of their family.
They were among six Venezuelan natives caught in the building’s collapse. Still missing Monday were Moisés Rodán, 28; Andrés Levine, 27; Luis Sadovnik, 28, and his wife, Nicole Langesfeld, Varnagy said.
Varnagy said the Oliwkowicz’s daughter had been outside the building waiting for some information about their fate. Her husband answered their phone and asked to be left alone.
The couple’s daughter, Mrs. Leah Fouhal, works as a secretary at a Jewish school in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, where the couple donated a Torah in 2019 in a procession that included a vintage fire truck, music and a giant velvet and gold crown, according to COLlive.com, an Orthodox Jewish news outlet that covers Chabad-Lubavitch communities around the world.
Meanwhile, the parents of Rodán, Levine and Sadovnik live in Venezuela and traveled to the U.S. Friday. ‘Some did not have a visa, others had an expired passport, but with diplomatic collaboration they were able to arrive,’ Varnagy said.
MICHAEL DAVID ALTMAN
The body of 52-year-old Marcus Joseph Guara was recovered on Saturday
Hilda Noriega (pictured) was named by her family Wednesday as the 12th confirmed victim of the tragedy
Hilda Noriega, who lived in Apt. 602 in the 12-story tower, was the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega.
She had only recently celebrated her 92nd birthday.
Her body was discovered among the remains of the condo tower Tuesday.
Her family paid tribute to the ‘matriarch of the family’ in a statement Wednesday.
Noriega’s son had traveled to the collapse site Thursday to look for his mother, who had only recently celebrated her 92nd birthday.
Among the rubble, the police chief found a birthday card a relative had given to Noriega at a brunch, reported Local10.
Emma Guara, 4, Lucia Guara, 10, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and Marcus Guara, 52
THE GUARA FAMILY
Miami-Dade police identified 10-year-old Lucia Guara and 4-year-old Emma Guara as victims in the condo collapse on Wednesday, June 30.
The remains of their father, Marcus Guara, 52, were pulled from the rubble Saturday and identified Monday. The girls and their mother, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, were recovered Wednesday.
The family lived on the eighth floor of the condo.