Gov. DeSantis thinks condo collapse might be a one-off; search of remains uncovers another 10 bodies

By: - July 7, 2021 2:20 pm

Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava addresses reporters on July 7, 2021. Source: Screenshot: Miami Dade Police Dept. video

UPDATE from Miami Herald:

“On the 14th day of the search through the rubble in Surfside, families and loved ones were told that the round-the-clock search and rescue effort for live victims at the Champlain Towers South has come to an end.

“Fire authorities said there is no longer hope that there are any survivors of the June 24 collapse and that the transition to a recovery effort will begin Wednesday at midnight.”


Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday played down concerns that the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building might reflect a broader problem with the high rises that line Florida’s coasts.

Meanwhile, in Surfside, where the weather had cleared as Tropical Storm Elsa moved away from the area, Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that teams had recovered another 10 bodies from the remains of the condo.

That brought the death total to 46. Thirty-two have been identified and next of kin notified; 94 people were still unaccounted for.

“Every single victim uncovered is somebody’s child, somebody’s mother, somebody’s teacher, somebody’s colleague, a classmate, a best friend. Our hearts break for those who are mourning and for those who are waiting and waiting,” Cava said.

With authorities in South Florida inspecting similar building for signs of trouble, DeSantis was asked during a press briefing in Tallahassee about the implications for safety and the real estate market.

He suggested the problem could be isolated.

“I think this building had problems from the start, let’s just put it that way,” he said.

“Obviously, we want to identify why did this happen. Is this something that was unique to this building? Is it something that unique to someone, that was unique to the person that, maybe, developed it — because, obviously, there are sister properties? Is it something that buildings of that age that would have implications beyond that, whether in Southern Florida or the entire state of Florida? I think we need to get those definitive answers,” he said.

“I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about it. But, at the same time, if there is something identified that would have implications broader than Champlain Towers, then, obviously, we are gonna take that and act as appropriate.”

Miami Dade County and individual cities there have ordered audits of all aging high-rises. Around 40 have been inspected, and a condo building in North Miami Beach has been evacuated because of evidence of structural flaws, she said. Officials also have been scrutinizing the nearby Champlain Towers North, built by the same developer as the south tower.

City officials have offered alternative housing to residents there.

The county’s mandatory 40-year recertifications of these structures have been on time, Cava said.

“This is not about finding fault with our building department, which does an excellent job. It simply was to review once again any conditions that might cause some additional concern,” she continued.

“There will be changes. There will be improvements made. We are convening a group of experts, as I’ve said, to advise us. We’ll be announcing other changes, as well,” she said.

Search teams include workers from Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and the federal government, as well as Florida, Miami Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said. The improved weather has allowed the work to continue uninterrupted and no personnel have been injured, he said.

Asked whether they’d seen any indication that the recovered bodies showed signs that people had survived the initial collapse, Cominsky said: “No, we have not.”

Demolition of a portion of the structure that remained standing has given the workers access to the entire site, he said.

The Support Surfside organization has raised $1.7 million in contributions to support victims and promises of another $1.3 million, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. Each family would receive an initial $5,000 on Wednesday, he said.

A receiver has assumed control of the condo’s assets, Surfside Vice Mayor Tina Paul said, and already has met with survivors and family members. Officials were attempting to resettle them within the same area.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is processing disaster assistance loans to disrupted businesses and homeowners, an official said.

A reporter asked Cava how she personally is coping while managing the recovery from the tragedy. She grew emotional

“From Day One, I have been surrounded by people who know what they’re doing, who are the best of the best, who are putting themselves on the line to help these families, to save the victims. That is what I’m focused on. That is what keeps me going,” she replied.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.