Authorities on both the state and federal level are investigating a beachfront condominium catastrophic collapse Thursday that left at-least four dead and 159 others unaccounted for, and a source tells Your Content exclusively that agents from the Florida Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence—in addition to agents from the FBI Miami Division—are probing what triggered the tragedy.
“It’s a routine criminal investigation that will be conducted,” a source who spoke under the condition of anonymity as the investigation is ongoing told Your Content Friday. “All routes are being pursued at this time.
“When an occupied residential building collapses on American soil—it certainly warrants a full blown investigation by the United States Government,” the source close to the investigation told Your Content. “The FBI is taking full advantage of all resources available to them.”
According to the well-placed source, federal agents are executing search warrants to obtain building records and inspections.
“It appears there are more pieces to this puzzle—each day everyone learns something new about the complex’s history—and the investigation will unravel any corners that may have been cut or warning signs ignored.”
What’s more, a staff member of the building told Your Content Friday she had been asked questions by federal agents.
“The questions were pretty generic, they didn’t ask about our management per se—but they wanted to know about our complaint protocols and how we handle complaints of safety.”
The staffer spoke under the condition of anonymity in fear of retribution from her employer.
“This building was on the brink of collapsing. Last week it was an inside joke; now it’s real life and we’re speechless.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an emergency declaration for Miami-Dade County late on Thursday that will provide assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to those dealing with the high-rise building collapse. The emergency declaration came after President Joe Biden said the agency had been sent to Florida and offered help from the federal government in recovering from the disaster.
Horrifying surveillance footage, obtained by WSVN, captured the moment the building collapsed, sending a huge cloud of debris into the air and officials said the level of destruction made it seem like a ‘bomb went off’.
Rescue teams are currently entering the rubble in groups of 10 to 12 at a time with dogs and other equipment as they trawl the wreckage for any survivors. Sources told NBC6 that search a dog had tracked two potential survivors as of Thursday afternoon.
Some signs of life have been reported from inside the rubble, although officials have yet to share further information on the hopeful discovery. They also face trying to free anyone who is still alive while avoiding making further rubble collapse on top of them.
Hundreds of distraught relatives gathered at a family reunification center holding photos of their loved ones as they awaited news.
As the desperate search for survivors continued, police were already probing the cause of the collapse.
Officials said the building, built in 1981, was going through a recertification process and that engineers had been hired to complete electrical and structural repairs.
Experts who had studied the building as recently as last year said the building was unstable and had been sinking since the 1990s.
The Miami building that collapsed was due for re-certification and had hired engineers to complete electrical and structural changes, it has been revealed.
Champlain Towers South was completed in 1981 but hasn’t been updated significantly since then. There are 136 condos inside and most belong to first-time homeowners. Some have sold for more than $2million. Fifty-five of the condos were destroyed in the collapse.
Florida law dictates that buildings have to be re-certified every 40 years so the building was due to be recertified this year.
The Champlain Towers South Association had hired an engineer who was planning ‘structural and electrical’ updates, but hadn’t started it yet, Kenneth Direktor, a lawyer for the association, told The Miami Herald.
He didn’t say what the needed updates were.
Just after 2:30 p.m. Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he spoke with President Biden this afternoon regarding the building collapse and he and the White House are “stepping up to help people who are in need.”
“I just spoke about an hour ago with President Biden, and he reiterated his administration’s full support. They’re all in,” DeSantis said at a news conference this afternoon, CNN reported. “And so we really appreciate having the support of the President and the people of Florida. Really appreciate the President and his administration stepping up to help people who are in need.”
Additional Reporting By: Nik Hatziefstathiou, Jonathan Riches & Hong Xie.