Did a Champlain Tower pool deck flaw play role in deadly Florida collapse?

As rescuers continued digging in an attempt to find the 156 people who have remained missing after a residential building partially collapsed in Florida on Thursday, the city of Surfside on Saturday released a 2018 engineering report that found “major structural damage” prior to the tragic incident.

The October 2018 report, conducted by Morabito Consultants, a structural engineering firm, uncovered “abundant cracking and spalling of varying degrees” in the “concrete columns, beams and walls” of the building’s parking garage, as well as “major structural damage to the concrete structural slab” that held up the ground-floor pool deck.

Morabito Consultants provided the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association with an estimate of the likely costs of the extensive and necessary repairs, but did not signal any imminent danger.

“The waterproofing below the Pool Deck & Entrance Drive as well as all of the planter waterproofing is beyond it [sic] useful life and therefore must all be completely removed and replaced,” the report said.

Rescuers continued to sift through rubble on Saturday in an effort to find the 159 people who went missing since the collapse of a condominium building near Miami.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas,” the report continued, adding that under the pool deck “where the slab had been epoxy-injected, new cracks were radiating from the originally repaired cracks.”

“Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” the report warned.

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It is unclear whether any of the damage reported by the firm caused or contributed to the collapse that has left at least five people dead. The definitive cause of the collapse was still unknown at time of publication.

A video released by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue on Friday showed firefighters standing in water about knee-high underneath the collapsed building as they assessed the damage. Surfside Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told the Miami Herald that residents of the building expressed concern over the water in the basement parking garage that leaked from a pool deck prior to the collapse of the building.

Rayse Rodriguez, a resident of the ninth floor, raised similar concerns about the weather leaks in the parking garage in an interview with the Wall Street Journal following the collapse. One couple that escaped the deadly incident told New Nation Now that they saw the water while attempting to evacuate.

The condominium association engaged Morabito Consultants in June 2020 to prepare the 40-year recertification of the building, which was required by Miami-Dade County and Surfside. At the time of the collapse, some of the advised repairs were underway but concrete restoration had not yet commenced.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett was unable to confirm on Friday whether the inspection had been completed. “It should have been a very straightforward thing,” he said. “Buildings in America do not just fall down like this. There is a reason. We need to find out what that reason is.”

Burkett told Newsweek on Saturday night that “the requisite recertification report has, according to our building official, not been completed nor submitted to the Town,” adding that he was “provided a copy of the 2018 report today for the first time.”

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In a statement, Morabita Consultants said their inspection of the building and report detailing findings and recommendations was completed on October 8, 2018.

“At that time, we also provided the condominium association with an estimate of the probable costs to make the extensive and necessary repairs,” the statement read. “Among other things, our report detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public.”

“Our firm exclusively provides engineering consulting services. We do not provide construction-related services, such as building repair and restoration contracting,” it added.

Newsweek reached out to Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

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