Federal Probe Into Surfside Condo Collapse in 'Very Early Stages,' Could Take Over 2 Years

The federal probe into the collapse of a Florida condominium that killed 98 people is still in the "very early stages" and could take more than two years to complete, the Associated Press reported. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has created six different teams of experts and received $22 million in supplemental funding from Congress in order to thoroughly investigate different details of the Champlain Towers abrupt crumbling in Surfside, according to NIST investigation team leader Judith Mitrani-Reiser.

"Obviously, it's the very early stages," Reginald DesRoches, chair of a NIST construction safety advisory committee, said Monday. "We need to get this right. It's not something that's going to happen quickly."

Glenn Bell, an associate lead NIST investigator, estimated that the probe will likely last more than two years because of the intricacy of the case.

"It's a very complex investigation. Everybody's anxious for answers," Bell said.

The required 40-year safety review for the Champlain Towers building was just beginning when the condominium collapsed suddenly in June, spurring weeks of search and rescue efforts and national outcry. A coalition of engineers and architects called the Surfside Working Group advised Florida to adopt new building inspection rules and regulations in light of the collapse.

Among the coalition's suggestions was a recommendation to carry out safety inspections every 20 years for high-rise buildings near the coast, according to the AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Surfside Collapse Investigation
The federal probe into the collapse of a Florida condominium that killed 98 people is still in “very early stages” and could take more than two years to complete. Coast Guard boats patrol in front of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building, July 1 in Surfside, Florida. Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

The NIST did not provide any firm timetable Monday for results on the cause of the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building.

The six investigative teams' work will include efforts to figure out how the building was initially designed, what changes were made and what deteriorated; what data was collected by aerial drones and remote sensors; inspection of hundreds of pieces of rubble for structural failure clues; and whether soils, underground rock or vibrations from nearby construction may have played a role.

For many victims and condo owners, the probe is not moving nearly fast enough. David Rodan, whose brother and cousin died in the collapse, said people like him remain almost entirely in the dark.

"Four months should be enough for a little more information," Rodan told the panel. "I really hope in the next NIST presentation that we start getting some of these answers."

Investigators are interviewing witnesses and asking people to provide any information, photos, videos or other material pertinent to the probe through a NIST portal.

Parallel to the NIST probe is an ongoing court case in which a Miami-Dade County judge has appointed a receiver to handle the sale of the property, access to evidence for experts hired by lawyers and financial details such as insurance policies.

Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman has named a mediator to work through claims for compensation by condo owners and those who lost loved ones in the collapse. That process also is taking time.

Several NIST advisory committee members said their investigation will be lengthy because it is unique, with no obvious reason the 12-story building fell suddenly without warning.

Crews Work in Surfside Rubble
The National Institute of Standards and Technology did not provide any firm timetable at a meeting November 8 for results on the cause of the June 24 Florida condominium collapse. Crews work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Sunday, June 27 in Surfside, Florida. Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo