Speed Reads

florida condo collapse

Before Florida condo collapse, contractor took photos of damage in building's garage

A contractor who visited the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida, just 36 hours before it partially collapsed early Thursday shared with the Miami Herald photos he took showing cracks in the concrete and corroded rebar under the pool.

Metadata confirmed that the photos were taken on June 22. The commercial pool contractor, who asked that his name not be used, told the Herald "there was standing water" all over the basement-level garage, with the deepest puddle near parking spot 78. Building plans show that this space is underneath the pool deck; in a 2018 inspection report, engineer Frank Morabito wrote that due to a lack of proper drainage on the deck, "major structural damage" in that area had occurred. 

The 40-year-old building was about to undergo a massive renovation, and the contractor was there to put together a bid for a cosmetic restoration of the pool and to price out new pool equipment. He told the Herald the lobby and pool area looked well-maintained, but he was stunned when he went to the garage. In addition to the standing water, he saw exposed and corroding rebar and cracked concrete in the pool equipment room.

The contractor said he spoke with a maintenance staffer who said they had to pump the pool equipment room so often that every two years, the pump motors had to be replaced. "I thought to myself, that's not normal," the contractor told the Herald. During an interview with CBS4, William Espinosa, a maintenance manager at the building since the 1990s, said ocean water would enter the garage and the "pumps could never keep up with it." A representative for the Champlain Towers South condo association declined to comment to the Herald.

On Monday, two more bodies were pulled from the rubble of the building, bringing the death toll to 11. Authorities said 150 people remain unaccounted for, and search and rescue teams are working around the clock to try to find survivors.