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Federal update into Surfside condo collapse provides no answers, no clues into cause

Federal investigation could take 2 years
APTOPIX Building Collapse Miami
Posted at 5:40 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 09:52:27-05

SURFSIDE, Fla. — More than four months after the overnight collapse of the Champlain Tower South condominium in Surfside, investigators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provided an update on its investigation, but offered no answers or clues into how and why the oceanfront residential building appeared to suddenly crumble.

"I and our entire investigative team are deeply committed to understanding why the building collapsed," lead investigator Judith Mitrani-Reiser told the National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee during a video conference Monday.

Instead, Mitrani-Reiser and Glenn Bell, also with the NIST, detailed what many stakeholders already know. The team offered some detail into how it's collecting data, including hundreds of evidentiary specimens already stored in secure warehouses.

 Judith Mitrani-Reiser, NIST investigator into Surfide condo collapse
Judith Mitrani-Reiser speaks about the latest findings in the NIST investigation.

In addition, the team detailed the process by which investigators are analyzing data using remote sensing, high-resolution scanning and structural remodeling.

The team has also organized its investigation into six separate projects focusing on various elements to the investigation including structural to technical failures.

RELATED: Structural engineer investigating Surfside collapse reveals frustration over slow access to site

NIST's mission is to understand why the building collapsed and make federal recommendations to keep what happened on June 24 from happening again.

Ninety-eight people including men, women and children, died when the oceanfront tower collapsed this past summer, shocking even the most seasoned structural engineers.

Glenn Bell
Glenn Bell of NIST speaks about his organization's work to find the cause of the Surfside condo collapse.

"Our mission is not to find fault, but rather to understand why the failure occurred, so we can learn from it and avert future disasters like this," Bell said.

Last week, world-renowned structural engineer Allyn Kilsheimer voiced his frustrations about his lack of access to the site.

Kilsheimer was hired privately by the town to investigate the cause of the collapse.

At the time, Kilsheimer pointed to the many players involved in the case, including courts, hundreds of attorneys, and the feds as reasons his investigation and full access to the site were delayed.

“What's unusual here is not being able to have all the data to be able to evaluate it as quickly as possible as we've done in other situations," Kilsheimer told reporter Katie LaGrone.

Surfside Collapse Site, July 5, 2021
Rescue crews work at the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building after the remaining structure was demolished Sunday, in Surfside, Fla., Monday, July 5, 2021. Many people are unaccounted for in the rubble of the building which partially collapsed June 24.

As NIST continues to collect evidence, the federal team will also be relying on highly publicized videos from the collapse and eyewitness accounts, with interviews starting soon.

But during the public comment of Monday's video conference, David Rodan, who lost his brother and several cousins in the collapse, voiced his concern about the feds' lack of answers so far.

"No real finding has been presented to us. Four months should be enough to get a little more information. This is coming from me and the families of the victims," he told NIST and committee members.

How much the federal investigation will cost is still being determined and the federal investigation could take years to fully complete.

"It’s a very complicated investigation. We have a lot of work to do and everybody is anxious for answers," said Bell.

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