'Something Off' With Miami Condo Prior To Collapse

By Jason Hall

June 25, 2021

US-COLLAPSE-BUILDING
Photo: Getty Images

The Champlain Towers South Condo is reported to have had some issues prior to its partial collapse on Thursday (June 24).

Adriana Chi, 42, whose family has owned a condo in the building since 1994, said she told her brother, Edgar Gonzalez, 45, a resident of the building since 1994, about a month ago that things were so bad that it seemed the building could collapse one day, the Daily Beast reports.

“I’m not an architect or an engineer, but at the end of the day, it could not have been built correctly for something like that to happen," Chi said.

Chi said she would frequently smoke on Gonzalez's balcony, which she said seemed a little slanted and noted that the condo had experienced ceiling leaks and black mold in recent years, which forced her brother to renovate the kitchen.

"There's been issues for a while," Chi added. "There was something off with that building."

A lawsuit filed by a Champlain Towers South resident in 2015 accused building management of not properly maintaining the structure of the condominium's outer walls.

One year prior, water was reported to have seeped in through cracks in an outside wall, which caused an unspecified amount of damage, according to the filing, which clarifies that this was the second time a resident had sued over the issue.

The previous lawsuit was settled when management agreed to pay for damages to the resident's condo, according to Miami-Dade civil court records.

An anonymous Champlain Towers resident disagrees, telling the Daily Beast she wasn't home during the collapse, but described the complex as "famous for being very well maintained" and "one of the most solid buildings in Surfside.

The Champlain Towers were undergoing apparent routine roof repairs at the time of the collapse, although it has not been confirmed whether that had anything to do with the incident.

Kobi Karp, a Miami-based architect, said the construction method used in South Florida has been standard since the 1920s, calling it "the most structurally sound and safest way to build structures, whether it’s a two-story home or a high-rise.”

The Champlain Towers complex is made of structural concrete set atop concrete pilings in an effort to withstand seasonal threats of lateral wind loads from hurricanes.

“So even a building built in the 1980s is a relatively young building,” Karp told the Daily Beast, adding that a possible cause of the building's collapse “could have occurred in the past 24 hours or in the past 24 months.”

"The cause is either a structural event that occurred because they were working on the roof and put too much load concentrated in a certain area, and/or there was somebody working on the structure and created a cut or damage that caused structural failure. In both scenarios, it seems to be a man-made cause," Karp said.

James McGuinness, the building official for the town of Surfside, reportedly visited the Champlain Towers on Wednesday (June 23), one day prior to their collapse, but it is unknown why he was there, according to the the Miami Herald.

Four people have died and a total of 159 individuals are unaccounted for after a partial building collapse to the 12-story Surfside condominium, NBC Miami reports.

Officials told NBC Miami that residents were being moved to the Surfside Community Center and all streets in the area of the collapse were closed.

The Champlain Towers South Condos are located at 8777 Collins Avenue and were built in 1981.

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