Federal investigators talk about Surfside condo collapse probe

Investigation includes hundreds of pieces of evidence; will take years to complete

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Federal investigators discussed their investigation as the one-year mark for the Surfside condo collapse approaches.

Part of the Champlain Towers near Miami Beach collapsed in the middle of the night on June 24. 98 people were killed.

It was the third deadliest building collapse in the U.S. -- behind The World Trade Center attack and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Investigators with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) said the point of the probe is to not only find out what happened and who may be responsible for this deadly collapse, but it’s also to prevent similar tragedies at other high-rises.

“What we have so far is there were likely several contributing factors to the collapse,” Glenn Bell, the associate lead investigator, said.

“Our goal is to identify the original of evidence specimens in the building when possible,” NIST’s David Goodwin said.

From concrete chunks, pieces of metal, and ground samples to interviews, building records, and surveillance video, experts are looking at everything -- using computer software, drones, and sensors to put everything together.

The physical evidence is at a warehouse in Miami, where it’ll be sent off for testing.

“These tests will be performed at various outside labs at universities, companies and government agencies,” lead investigator Judith Mitrani-Reiser said.

Congress gave NIST $22 million in emergency funding to complete a report and give recommendations for the future.

“We know that to bring about real change and avert future failures, we need to ensure that improvements in codes and standards are actually carried into practice,” Mitrani-Reiser added. “Code adoption, enforcement, education and quality insurance are some of these necessary steps.”

There’s still a long way to go. Teams plan to finish their investigations in 2024. Miami-Dade police are carrying out their own separate investigation into the deaths.

Last month, attorneys for the families who lost relatives in the collapse reached a $1.02 billion settlement.

Families of victims will have to file claims, as the money will not be split evenly. The goal is to begin distributing money by September.

The money comes from several sources, including insurance companies, engineering companies and a luxury condominium that had recently been built next door. None of the parties are admitting wrongdoing.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.