Real Estate

Miami Condo Collapse Updates: Second Lawsuit, Warnings In April

Details continue to emerge about the catastrophic building collapse that occurred last Thursday at Champlain Towers South, a luxury condo development near Miami.

A second known lawsuit was filed over the weekend by one of the survivors of the collapse against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association. The lawsuit filed by attorney Bob McKee on behalf of resident Steve Rosenthal seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial, Local10 reported.

“The tragedy of Champlain Towers South should not be allowed to be repeated,” McKee told Local10. “It is not a solitary freak event. The conditions relating to its collapse exist in many of our hi-rise concrete buildings. Change to effectuate more frequent inspection, with teeth in compelling immediate complete and timely repair must be effectuated.”

As of Tuesday morning, the death toll in the wake of the disaster had risen to 11.

Warnings made in April of significant damage

Back in April, the Champlain South Towers Condo Association president, Jean Wodnick, sent out a letter to residents notifying them that damage to the building identified in a 2018 engineer’s report had “gotten significantly worse” in the intervening years.

Wodnicki urged residents to pay a $15 million special assessment in order to help fund extensive construction projects to address identified issues.

The full letter to residents has been published in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

In the letter, Wodnicki warned residents that the building’s concrete damage would “multiply exponentially over the years, and indeed the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse over the years.”

“It is impossible to know the extent of the damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete is opened up,” the letter added. “Oftentimes the damage is more extensive than can be determined by inspection of the surface.”

Photos of damaged building garage emerge

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald also recently received disturbing photos of the building’s basement-level garage from a commercial pool contractor who visited the building just two days before the collapse, in order to put together a bid for restorations to be done to the pool.

“There was standing water all over the parking garage,” the anonymous pool contractor told the Herald.

Upon inspection, the contractor saw cracking concrete, exposed and severely corroded rebar, and pools of standing water in the garage and pool equipment room.

“If the condition of the beam in the pool guy’s photo is something that was also happening under the building, that is a really major concern,” Mohammad Ehsani, an engineer and concrete restoration expert who reviewed the Herald’s photos said. Ehsani added that such damage could have “absolutely” been a contributing factor to the building’s partial collapse.

President Biden to visit

On Tuesday, the White House confirmed that President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will make a trip to Surfside on Thursday to visit the site of the building’s collapse.

“The visit is being closely coordinated with officials on the ground to ensure it does not draw away critical local resources from the ongoing search and rescue operations or have any negative operational impact,” a White House official told the Herald.

Over the weekend, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell was dispatched to the site by the White House. Several other teams have also been sent in by the federal government to aid in disaster response, including an incident management assistance team, structural engineers, building science experts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and two FEMA-supported search and rescue teams.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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