From CBS Miami true stories of remarkable strenght and determination into the CONDO disaster

Amidst the tragedy of the Surfside condo collapse, there’s a story of remarkable strength and determination.


Before and after MIAMI Condo Collapse

Before and after MIAMI Condo Collapse


Angela Gonzalez and her 16-year-old daughter, Devon, fell from the ninth floor to the fifth floor.

Despite a breaking her pelvis, Angela found the strength to not only pull herself from the rubble, but also her child.

Both were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment.

“Wasn’t something that I thought I would come down to this, I guess. But pick up the pieces, trying to figure out how to make this work, how to make this better than what it is,” said Lisa Melencial, a family friend who was among those gathered at JMH. 

  1. “Even though it’s a tragic scenario. I just want prayers and just the best for her and her family.”

Edgar Gonzalez, Angela’s husband and Devon’s dad, is among the 99 people who are unaccounted for.

  • “Hope for the best. Everybody just give prayers. Everybody else’s families or any colleagues or friends that were in the incidents, I wish you prayers, thoughts… And I hope everybody gets well,” Melencial said.

Now loved ones are just hoping for another miracle.

After the rescue mission is complete, the investigation into what led to this catastrophe will begin.

CBS4’s Keith Jones looked into the history of the building and found there have been several reasons for concern throughout the years.

  • “Nothing appeared either to the engineers or to any of the residents that suggests anything like this was imminent. Nothing,” said Ken Direktor.

Direktor is the attorney for the Champlain Towers South Condo Association, which is in charge of the buildings upkeep and maintenance.

He confirmed engineers were in the middle of the required 40-year recertification. The tower was completed in 1981. It’s a 12-story oceanfront condo in Surfside with 136 units The condo association hired an engineer to deal with structural and electrical changes for the recertification process.

Rescuers over the ruins




Perhaps what residents didn’t know was the building was sinking, according to Dr. Shimon Wdowinski, from FIU’s department of earth and environment.

  • “We used data from ‘93 to ’99, so that was the data available for that study and we saw there was some pockets of subsidence in Miami Beach,” he explained.

Wdowinski studies subsidence, which is the movement of the surface downward.

His study included Surfside, and specifically the Champlain Towers South.

  • “Now, we saw subsidence in that particular building in Surfside, which was unusual, because we didn’t expect to see it over there,” he said.

It was unusual because Surfside has a lot of limestone, which offers more support.

  • “In this particular case, we saw subsidence over there,” he said. “We reported about it.”

In HIS report, he noted the tower was built 41 years ago on reclaimed wetlands. It was sinking at a rate of 2mm a year for three decades, and that may have an impact on the structure.

When subsidence is present, structures can show cracking that worsens over time. That’s something the professor looked for.

  • “I looked at it from satellite imagery, but I didn’t see anything suspicious at the time,” he said.

The age of the tower, 40 years old, likely didn’t play a factor in the collapse, according to Atorod Azizinamini of FIU’s engineering department.

  • “So buildings built in 1981, we had lots of knowledge. So I wouldn’t say that age is a factor, not by itself,” he said.

Dr. Azizinamini said it’s likely a collection of failures that made for a catastrophic event.

  • “They’re going to look at how the building was constructed. They’re going to take samples of the steel, concrete, signs of corrosion. They’re going to look at the foundation to see if there was settlement,” he said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava has signed an emergency order to open the door for federal assistance in the Surfside condo collapse recovery efforts.

The mayor’s announcement came shortly after she called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency, saying “there is no time to waste.”

The governor did so late Thursday evening, Tallahassee correspondent Mike Vasilinda reported.

At a press conference earlier in the day, President Joe Biden addressed the building collapse, saying he was ready to provide assistance as soon as DeSantis declared a state of emergency.

“We’ve gotten in touch with FEMA, they’re ready to go. The governor is going to have to – we can’t, they’re down inspecting what they think is needed. But I’m waiting for the governor to ask for a declared emergency, especially when we learn about what might happen with the rest of the building,” he said. 
  • “So we are on top of it, we are ready to move from the federal resources immediately.”

At this time, according to Miami-Dade PD, 99 people are still unaccounted for. Cava later gave an update reporting that 102 have been accounted for.

During an 8 p.m. update, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

said she had spoken with the White House and state emergency management leaders throughout the day.

She added that federal Government is prepared to provide whatever is needed.

So far, the state’s response has included, among other things, the Florida Department of Emergency Management has deployed a State Emergency Response Team personnel deployed to assist response teams.

The governor added the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has activated the Business Damage Assessment Survey “to gather information and ensure proper resources are available for response and recovery for the Surfside Community.”

DeSantis also said displaced residents can utilize the Florida Housing and Finance Corporation rental locator at FloridaHousingSearch.org or call 877-428-8844.

The Champlain Towers South condo building that endured a partial collapse early Thursday morning was due for what is called a 40-year inspection.


Older buildings along the coast take a beating from the environment and need to be constantly maintained. The Champlain Towers South was described as a low-key beach building in quite a beautiful location.

Boasting friendly staff and generally clean, located in the town of Surfside, the Champlain Towers South are situated farther north of Miami and Miami Beach proper. The building was built in 1981, with 136 one-to-four bedroom units that were typically priced from $600,000 to $699,000.

CBS4’s Jim DeFede spoke with Ken Direktor, the attorney for the Surfside building. He said that the building had begun undergoing an inspection review process. He said that they had identified some issues with the building and that they had hired contractors, but the building collapsed before they had a chance to address those issues.

The condo association hired an engineer to deal with structural and electrical changes for the recertification process.

Perhaps what residents didn’t know was the building was sinking, according to Dr. Shimon Wdowinski, from FIU’s department of earth and environment.

  • “We used data from ‘93 to ’99, so that was the data available for that study and we saw there was some pockets of subsidence in Miami Beach,” he explained.

Wdowinski studies subsidence, which is the movement of the surface downward.

His study included Surfside, and specifically the Champlain Towers South.

“Now we saw subsidence in that particular building in Surfside, which was unusual, because we didn’t expect to see it over there,” he said.

It was unusual because Surfside has a lot of limestone, which offers more support.

  • “In this particular case, we saw subsidence over there,” he said. “We reported about it.”

Credits to
CBS Miami

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