Miami building collapse: Federal oversight team names team of investigators

90 confirmed dead in Surfside condo collapse

90 confirmed dead, 31 potentially missing in Surfside, Florida condo collapse. Fox News’ Charles Watson with the latest.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on Wednesday named members of its team tasked with investigating the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida.

The building, constructed in 1981, was undergoing its 40-year recertification process at the time of the collapse that killed 98 people. While officials have yet to determine a specific cause behind the deadly disaster, NIST was at the scene of the incident 48 hours after the building fell and sent a team of six scientists and engineers to investigate.

“We are in our final days of evidence collection at the site of the collapsed building,” NIST Associate Chief of the Materials and Structural Systems Division Judith Mitrani-Reiser said during a press conference. “We have assembled a team of forensic engineers, academic researchers and federal investigators with extensive expertise across many disciplines.”

In this July 1, 2021, photo NIST staff members examine pieces of concrete removed from the debris pile at the site of the Champlain Towers South building partial collapse. (Credit: NIST)

NIST is working to determine how the building was designed, constructed, modified and maintained throughout its 40 years of existence, Mitrani-Reiser, who will help lead the investigation, said. The Institute will also work to investigate the state of the building and its materials at the time of the collapse, as well as the “geologic characteristics” of the land beneath the tower.

Investigators come from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Concrete Institute, the Structural Engineering Institute and the Geode Institute. 

Matrani-Reiser named Glenn Bell, co-director of the safety organization Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures and co-founder of the American Society of Civil Engineers Technical Council on Forensic Engineering, as the team’s associate lead. Bell has 45 years of experience investigating structural failures. 

Additionally, Jim Harris and Jonathan Weigand will investigate the Champlain Towers building and code history, David Goodwin and Christopher Segura have been tasked with evidence preservation, Ken Hover and Scott Jones will lead geotechnical engineering research, and Jack Moehle and Fahim Sadek will tackle structural engineering research.

“Our investigation will be open and independent,” said James Olthoff, who is currently performing the non-exclusive functions and duties of the NIST under secretary of commerce for standards and technology and director, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In this July 1, 2021, photo NIST staff members examine pieces of concrete removed from the debris pile at the site of the Champlain Towers South building partial collapse. (Credit: NIST)

The 2002 National Construction Safety Team (NCST) gives NIST and its teams the authority to conduct technical investigations into building failures or disasters after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. NIST has conducted five significant investigations including the World Trade Center attack; the 2003 Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island; the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado; and it has an ongoing investigation into the damage Hurricane Maria created in Puerto Rico.

The Institute has 50 years of experience researching disasters and construction or engineering failures.

“The goals of our Champlain Towers South investigation will be to understand the technical cause or causes of this collapse and use that information to make buildings safer across the United States,” Olthoff said.

NIST is encouraging the public to submit any information they may have about the collapse — including videos, photos or other documentation — that may help investigators to a new online Disaster Data Portal.

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