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Last week’s deadly Florida condo collapse may have started at the base of the building, engineers have said, according to reports.
“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” consulting engineer Donald O. Dusenberry told the New York Times, after watching video footage of the 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo collapsing in Surfside early Thursday. “It’s not like there’s a failure high and it pancaked down.”
Dusenberry — who has investigated other building collapses — told the outlet that the way the building went down suggests there could be an issue with its foundation — such as “corrosion or other damage at a lower level.” On the other hand, “you certainly can’t rule out a design or construction error that has survived for 40 years,” the engineer said.
Another expert said the columns in the underground parking lot could be the culprit behind the collapse, the Times reported.
“The primary purpose of all the columns in the basement is to hold the structure up in the air,” said University of Toronto professor of structural engineering Evan Bentz. “Because the structure stopped being held up in the air, the simplest explanation is that the columns in the basement ceased to function.”
The theory that the collapse started at the bottom could also be bolstered by one missing resident’s call to her husband moments before the building went down.
Cassie Stratton, 40, told her husband, Mike Stratton, on a call that she saw a sinkhole where the pool had been and that she felt the building shaking, the Miami Herald reported. A moment later, Stratton’s line went dead, her husband told the outlet.
Structural engineer Jason Borden — who had inspected the tower in 2020 — told CNN that the pool sinkhole “definitely” could have contributed to the collapse.
Borden said during the inspection, he’d seen cracks in the building facade, on the balconies and in the garage and plaza of the building. But Borden noted that that kind of deterioration was normal in his line of work and that it hadn’t alarmed him.
On Monday morning, officials confirmed that the death toll had risen to 10 while another 151 people are still unaccounted for.
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