Surfside condo collapse: Looking back 1 year later

From search-and-rescue to recovery, tireless efforts made in aftermath of tragedy
Posted at 9:31 PM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 21:31:58-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — It was just after 1 a.m. on June 24, 2021, when Champlain Towers South failed, crashing down early on a Thursday morning. Rescuers immediately began searching for survivors in the rubble.

"We are working around the clock, and we have hope," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in the hours after the collapse.

View of Champlain Towers South condo building after partial collapse, June 24, 2021
A view of the Champlain Towers South condominium is shown after a partial collapse, Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. A wing of the 12-story beachfront building collapsed, trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal.

Family and friends of victims waited and hoped for any news. The 98 victims were from 14 countries. Search-and-rescue teams from as far away as Mexico and Israel flew in to help.

"Miracles happen every day and you know what? I still know there's somebody there in the next few days coming out of that rubble," a friend of the victim told WPTV outside the family reunification center.

Crews worked 12-hour shifts, sifting through the rubble, battling fires and rains. Just over a week after the collapse, the decision was made to bring down the other side of the condo.

The demolition came the night of July 4. Twenty minutes later, crews were once again looking for victims and survivors.

Surfside implosion
The damaged remaining structure at the Champlain Towers South condo building collapses in a controlled demolition, Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. The decision to demolish the Surfside building came after concerns mounted that the damaged structure was at risk of falling, endangering the crews below and preventing them from operating in some areas.(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Just three days after that, the mission transitioned from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery.

"We made the extremely difficult decision to transition from operation search-and-rescue to recovery," Levine Cava said during one of her daily briefings.

More than a month after the collapse, the 98th and final victim was identified. It was around the same time that crews cleared the final rubble from the collapse site.

Vehicles cleared from Champlain Towers South wreckage hauled from site, July 10, 2021
Vehicles that were pulled from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South are transported on Saturday, July 10, 2021 in Surfside, Fla.

In all, 22 million pounds of debris were moved to an undisclosed facility so investigators could use it to try and determine a cause of the collapse. The death toll makes the collapse one of the deadliest building collapses ever.

In May, survivors and families of the victims reached a tentative settlement over the collapse. A judge gave final approval Thursday, meaning the plaintiffs will split more than $1 billion.

On May 24, the site was auctioned for $120 million to a developer from Dubai. The plans for the site include luxury condominiums.

A public memorial will be held on the anniversary of the collapse at the site of the Champlain Towers South. Other private events are planned for relatives of the victims.