A pool contractor who evaluated the Champlain South Tower pool deck just 36 hours before the building suddenly collapsed, took shocking pictures showing extensive damage to the building’s basement parking garage, according to an exclusive report from the Miami Herald, which also obtained the photos.
The photos, posted to social media by a Miami Herald reporter, show cracks and standing water in hallways of the building’s lower levels.
EXCLUSIVE: Two days before Surfside condo collapse, a pool contractor photographed this damage in garagehttps://t.co/ul7uS6CU7c
— julie k. brown (@jkbjournalist) June 28, 2021
“There was standing water all over the parking garage,” the contractor reportedly told the Miami newspaper. “He noted cracking concrete and severely corroded rebar under the pool.”
“The contractor visited the condo building last week to put together a bid for a cosmetic restoration of the pool as well as to price out new pool equipment — a small piece of the multimillion-dollar restoration project that just was getting underway at the 40-year-old building,” the outlet noted.
“While he had worked in the industry for decades and had ‘gone in some scary places,” the Herald continued, “he said he was struck by the lack of maintenance in the lower level. The amount of water at Champlain Towers seemed so unusual that the contractor mentioned it to a building staff member, Jose, who was showing him around.”
Jose, the contractor said, thought the damage was from a waterproofing issue. The contractor, though, was concerned about what appeared to be more systemic issues, including pools of standing water and “exposed and corroding rebar,” as well as cracks in the concrete.
An expert noted to the Herald that the damage, shown in the contractor’s photos, was likely not enough to cause the collapse, but that it may represent just a fraction of the deterioration in the building: “If the condition of the beam in the pool guy’s photo is something that was also happening under the building, that is a really major concern.”
A 2018 report, now at the center of the investigation into how the Champlain South Towers collapsed so suddenly last Thursday, leaving at least 11 dead and 150 people missing, documented extensive damage, earlier reports noted, and in a letter to Champlain South Tower residents, the condominium board president specifically referenced corroding rebar and cracking concrete in her plea for a $15 million assessment to cover major repairs.
The board president, Fox News reported Tuesday, “noted that in fall 2018, engineering firm Morabito Consultants was hired to inspect the building, reports said. The engineering report pointed out flaws of the building ahead of work that would be needed for the building to meet 40-year recertification in 2021, documents showed.”
“The report found that the pool deck’s waterproofing had failed and was not sloped to drain water. It also pointed to ‘abundant cracking’ in concrete columns and beams,” Fox continued.
Experts who spoke to the New York Times on Monday said they suspected the building suffered from a catastrophic structural failure somewhere near “the bottom” of the building.
“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” a consulting engineer who is not affiliated with the search and rescue operation told the New York Times. “It’s not like there’s a failure high and it pancaked down.”
A female resident of the building, who is now missing, reportedly called her husband just ahead of the collapse and reported that the pool had disappeared into a “sinkhole.”
Officials say they are still hopeful that they will find survivors in rubble and that the “search and rescue” operation has not yet turned into a “search and recovery” effort. They are also collecting and preserving items that could serve as evidence in ongoing investigations at both the state and federal levels.
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