Miami building collapse timeline reveals multiple red flags, years and months before the structure tumbled to the ground

Florida building collapse rescue efforts
Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 26, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • A Florida condo building unexpectedly collapsed on Thursday morning, killing at least 11 people.
  • Search and rescue operations continue as crews look for at least 150 people still unaccounted for.
  • A timeline of the building’s recent history reveals prior red flags that preceded the collapse.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Champlain Towers South, a 12-story Florida condo building, unexpectedly collapsed the morning of Thursday June 24, killing at least 11 people and leaving some 150 still unaccounted for as more than 80 rescue units from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue continue searching the scene for survivors.

As unanswered questions begin to mount, a timeline of the condominium’s recent history reveals a smattering of warning signs that emerged before the devastating collapse.

1981: The luxury Champlain Towers South and North are built using reinforced concrete

The Champlain Towers condominium complex at 8777 Collins Ave. was built in 1981, about a mile away from Miami Beach, on the Surfside shore. Both Champlain Towers South and Champlain Towers North, a smaller complex with fewer units, were built in 1981 out of reinforced concrete. A third tower, Champlain Towers East, went up in 1991.

The collapsed South tower had 136 units – the most of all three of the 12-story towers.

According to The Miami Herald, the upscale complex was the first new project built in Surfside after a county moratorium on new developments during the 1970s.

2015: A Champlain Towers resident files a lawsuit alleging improper maintenance in the building

A resident of the condominium filed a lawsuit in 2015 alleging one of the building’s outer walls had not been maintained properly, court records previously reviewed by Insider showed.

Matilde Fainstein said the building’s owners “failed to repair or negligently repaired the common elements and the outside walls of the building.” Fainstein filed for damages in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court in 2015.

In the lawsuit, Fainstein said water had started coming in through cracks in the outer wall to her terrace in the prior year, causing damage. She had previously taken the same issue to court, where the building’s association, the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association was found liable, according to the complaint.

It is unclear what section of Champlain Towers the lawsuit was related to, or whether the issues raised in the filing played a role in Thursday’s collapse.

October 2018: An engineering consultant finds signs of “major structural damage”

An engineering consultant in 2018 found signs of “major structural damage” according to documents released by the town of Surfside, Florida.

The consultant, Frank Morabito, also found evidence of “abundant” cracking and fragmentation of the columns, beams, and walls in the garage under the collapsed Champlain Towers South, according to an October 2018 inspection report.

About eight percent of the concrete slabs in the garage and building plaza had experienced “concrete deterioration,” the report said, and Morabito advised that the complex’s crumbling concrete be repaired in a “timely fashion” to maintain the “structural integrity” of the building, according to The New York Times.

The report also noted additional signs of damage, including hairline cracking on the balcony structural floor slabs and splintering in the concrete columns and exterior walls.

The results of the inspection spurred plans for an extensive repair project that was slated to begin soon, according to The Times. A Surfside commissioner, Eliana Salzhauer, told the paper it was “upsetting” to learn the 2018 inspection problems had not prompted immediate repairs.

Champlain tower destruction in surfside florida
Search and rescue personnel work in the rubble of the 12-story condo tower that crumbled to the ground during a partially collapse of the building on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida Joe Raedle/Getty Images

2020: An academic study reveals the land around the complex has been sinking since the 1990s

A 2020 study conducted by Florida International University professor Shimon Wdowinski determined land around the Champlain Towers South building showed signs of sinking in the 1990s.

The study, published in the journal Ocean and Coastal Management, identified the complex as an area displaying signs of land subsidence, in which land settles or sinks.

Wdowinski told FIU news that while the research indicates the ground around the building had moved, it wouldn’t be the sole cause of the collapse.

2021: The Champlain Towers buildings begin a mandatory 40-year inspection

Miami buildings require a full structural inspection 40 years after they are built, and 2021 marked Champlain Towers’ 40th year.

According to The Miami Herald, the complex had begun its required inspection, which includes a safety check of electrical systems and the building’s structure, but a full report had not yet been submitted to the town clerk.

Two months before the collapse: The condo association president warns of worsening conditions

In early April, the president of the condo association warned that conditions in the building’s basement garage were worsening.

Jean Wodnicki, president of the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association said in an April 9 letter obtained by USA Today that damage had “gotten significantly worse” since the 2018 inspection.

She added deterioration of the building’s concrete was “accelerating” and noted major repairs she believed necessary, the outlet reported.

“When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface,” she said, according to USA Today.

Days before the collapse: A visiting pool contractor witnesses several maintenance issues

Last Tuesday, two days before the collapse, a pool contractor visiting the condo told The Herald he was struck by a lack of maintenance in the basement-level garage. According to the outlet, the contractor witnessed “standing water all over the parking garage,” as well as “cracking concrete” and “corroded rebar” under the pool.

An area where the contractor said standing water was the deepest, was the same place Morabito, the engineer who conducted the 2018 inspection, flagged as “a major error” in the building’s original design, The Herald reported.

Surfside Vice Mayor Tina Paul told Insider Champlain Towers South passed a roof inspection one day before the collapse.

About 1:20 a.m. on Thursday, June 24: the building collapses

In the early morning of June 24, a loud, prolonged bang and flashing lights reverberated across the complex as the South Tower fell into itself, collapsing layer by layer.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to the scene almost immediately as police officers and fellow firefighters from around the area arrived to help with search and rescue operations.

Using a cherry-picker, rescuers focused their efforts first on reaching people stuck in higher sections of the building.

Survivor from Surfside, FL, building collapse

Around 8:00 a.m.: Firefighters finish clearing survivors

Around 8 a.m. on Thursday morning, Miami-Dade Emergency Rescue Management told The Herald rescuers had cleared all remaining survivors from the tower.

At a press conference half an hour later, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Chief & Chief of Operations Ray Jadallah said 35 initial survivors in total had been rescued.

By midmorning, the number of unaccounted people was 51.

Afternoon: The number of unaccounted people continued to rise

By 3 p.m., 99 people were unaccounted for, according to officials, as rescuers continued to search through the rubble.

Authorities noted the number was “fluid” and likely to change, as the list of missing people was cobbled together from property records and family members and friends reporting loved ones missing.

A reunification hub was set up nearby for loved ones to wait for any news.

Days after the collapse: Search efforts continue as unanswered questions remain

In the days that followed, the number of unaccounted people has spiked to 150, while the death toll remained at 11 as of Monday afternoon.

Officials have promised a thorough investigation into what caused the tragedy, and while many experts have pondered potential reasons why the building fell, no clear answer has yet been confirmed.

Two residents have already filed lawsuits against the condo association for construction defects. One lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges the building used to shake while a neighboring residential complex was under construction. The same lawsuit also claims recent renovations and added heavy materials to the top of the South tower building played a role in its collapse.

The White House announced Tuesday President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are set to visit the site of the collapsed building on Thursday. Earlier this week, Biden said he would provide any necessary federal relief in response to the tragedy.