Four months after the tragic collapse of a wing of the 12-story Champlain Towers South residential condominium in Surfside, Fla., the Miami-Dade police gave private forensic investigators access to the site to probe the causes of the failure that killed 98 people.
Still, the 11 firms representing different interested parties, including insurers, have not been granted access to the warehouse containing the large pieces of collapsed elements and have not been given permission by the court to do any destructive testing, says Allyn Kilsheimer, founder, president and CEO of KCE Structural Engineers, which has been probing the collapse for the town of Surfside since June 25.
“We have been allowed to take physical measurements only,” he adds, though destructive sampling at site, including geophysical, geological, concrete and reinforcing steel testing, is critical to the investigations.
Kilsheimer says of the 10 other firms on site, five of them, plus KCE, have agreed to share the cost and raw data from eventual testing and sampling. Three more firms may join but two are not willing to share, he says.
A list of the firms is not yet available.
Need to Dewater the Site
Though access was granted Oct. 21, no one was on site until Oct. 26 because of 11.5 in. to 15 in. of water at the site.
“Miami-Dade had pulled the plug on the dewatering,” says Kilsheimer.
Pumping 24/7 for three days ended Oct. 24. “We tried to get the site nominally dry,” Kilsheimer adds.
After a drone flyover on Monday for lidar scanning, the investigators arrived at the site on Oct. 26. They were also given access to a storage yard with a 20-ft to 40-ft by 50-ft pile of debris from the July 4 controlled demolition of the building.
There also are piles of reinforcing steel, says Kilsheimer. The probers have not yet been given access to the warehouse with the larger pieces of concrete and other material from the collapse itself.
Kilsheimer adds that representatives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is conducting its own investigation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are on site every day.