REVEALED: Owners of condos in collapsed Miami tower were warned they'd need to pay $15M for repair weeks before it collapsed as its emerges developers worked around building codes to add penthouse

 Residents of the Miami condo building that collapsed in the early hours of Thursday were warned in April that they would have to pay $15million in repairs, it emerged on Monday - as new documentation showed a penthouse was added at the last minute in violation of planning rules. 

The Champlain Towers South condo was due this year for its 40-year inspection, as mandated under Florida law.

On April 9 the condo board president, Jean Wodnicki, wrote to inform residents that the concrete damage to the building would 'multiply exponentially over the years, and indeed the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse over the years.' 

She said that a 2018 report, commissioned in readiness for the 40 year inspection, suggested the repairs could be $12million.

Wodnicki said that the building's state may well have deteriorated since Frank Morabito provided his assessment.

Rescue workers are seen shifting through the rubble on Monday, as 150 people remain missing

Rescue workers are seen shifting through the rubble on Monday, as 150 people remain missing

The mangled wreckage of the building is seen on Monday, as it emerges that a $15 million upgrade was needed to get the building fit for its 40-year inspection

The mangled wreckage of the building is seen on Monday, as it emerges that a $15 million upgrade was needed to get the building fit for its 40-year inspection

South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look through rubble for survivors on Monday

South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look through rubble for survivors on Monday

A twilight vigil was held on Monday evening for those still trapped in the building

A twilight vigil was held on Monday evening for those still trapped in the building

Authorities in Florida say that 150 people are still unaccounted for inside the tower. Eleven bodies have been recovered

Authorities in Florida say that 150 people are still unaccounted for inside the tower. Eleven bodies have been recovered

'It is impossible to know the extent of the damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete is opened up,' Wodnicki wrote. 

'Oftentimes the damage is more extensive than can be determined by inspection of the surface.

'When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface. 

'The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated.' 

Wodnicki concluded: 'A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by. But this is where we are now. 

'We have discussed, debated, and argued for years now, and will continue to do so for years to come as different items come into play.'  


Morabito on Monday released a statement saying he recommended the changes three years ago to the condo association - a board of seven volunteers, five of whom were living in the building and one of whom remains missing. 

The cost of the repairs he suggested was $12million, which would have had to have been paid for with money raised through condo fees. 

'Morabito Consultants was retained in 2018 by the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association to prepare the 40-year-old recertification of the condo building. We completed our inspection and provided our report to the condo association on October 8, 2018, detailing our findings and recommendations.

'We provided the condo association with an estimate of the probable costs to make the extensive and necessary repairs. Among other things, our report detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure safety of the residents and public.  

An attorney for the condo association, Donna DiMaggio Berger, told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the 2018 report was fairly routine and didn't raise alarms. 

'Concrete spalling, rebar deterioration - these are not unusual events when you have buildings exposed to corrosive conditions,' Berger said. 

Also on Monday, it emerged that a penthouse was added to the building plans after they were initially submitted.

The plans for the 1981 building proposed 12 floors of residential units.

The developer decided to add a penthouse, which increased the building's height by about nine feet with an additional floor. 

The penthouse made the tower slightly above the town's legal height ordinance at the time, but the Surfside town commission granted a special exemption to local height limits.

It was too early to say whether the penthouse would have affected the building structurally, and investigators will be probing all aspects of its construction and design.

Manuel Jurado, an engineer who worked on the Champlain Towers South project, told The Wall Street Journal he was skeptical of criticisms over the design and engineering work. 

'If there was a major error, it would have surfaced within a year or two,' he said. 

'There were no problems that presented themselves' in the design process, he said, and the project unfolded smoothly. 

It has now emerged that the collapse began in the bottom of the building and brought the rest of it down with it in a 'domino effect'. 

Officials won't yet comment on what exactly brought the 40-year-old tower down but experts who have viewed footage of it say it started with a problem in the bottom of the building - perhaps the parking garage - and once that crumbled, huge swathes of the building came down with it.  

Some experts say it could have been the result of eroded columns collapsing under the weight the building. The cause of the erosion could have been spalling, which occurs when salt air gets into the column and rusts the steel inside.    


The bottom center of the building was the first to collapse at around 1.30am on Thursday morning. The bottom gave out and then the other parts of the building followed seconds later

The bottom center of the building was the first to collapse at around 1.30am on Thursday morning. The bottom gave out and then the other parts of the building followed seconds later

The rear of the center column was second to collapse, just a few seconds after the front of it crumbled from the bottom

The rear of the center column was second to collapse, just a few seconds after the front of it crumbled from the bottom

The eastern part of the tower was the last to fall, six seconds after the center began crumbling from the bottom

The eastern part of the tower was the last to fall, six seconds after the center began crumbling from the bottom 

In his October 2018 report, engineer Frank Morabito told the condo board association of spalling in the parking garage columns that needed repair. Experts told DailyMail.com on Monday that such spalling in concrete columns in the parking garage could have caused the collapse, and that it was likely caused by sea air rusting the steel inside the columns

In his October 2018 report, engineer Frank Morabito told the condo board association of spalling in the parking garage columns that needed repair. Experts told DailyMail.com on Monday that such spalling in concrete columns in the parking garage could have caused the collapse, and that it was likely caused by sea air rusting the steel inside the columns 

The collapse began at 1.30am and was over in less than ten seconds. It started in the center front portion, next to the pool, in the basement or the parking garage where an engineer had identified spalled concrete columns. Next, the hind portion of that middle section fell, before the east section collapsed

The collapse began at 1.30am and was over in less than ten seconds. It started in the center front portion, next to the pool, in the basement or the parking garage where an engineer had identified spalled concrete columns. Next, the hind portion of that middle section fell, before the east section collapsed 


Frank Morabito, the engineer who was hired by the condo board in 2018, released a statement on Monday to insist he did warn the condo board of cracks in the building but that nothing was done

Frank Morabito, the engineer who was hired by the condo board in 2018, released a statement on Monday to insist he did warn the condo board of cracks in the building but that nothing was done


The only work that was underway was on the roof but officials say that did not contribute to the collapse. 

'There was no inordinate amount of equipment or materials or anything on that roof that caught my building official's eye that would make it alarming as to this place collapsing,' Surfside's building official James 'Jim' McGuinness said, adding that the cause of the collapse remains under investigation.   

A lawyer for the board who last week told DailyMail.com that it was unfair to lay the blame with the volunteers did not respond to requests on Monday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, engineering and construction experts who have studied video of the collapse say it indicates the columns in the parking garage buckled, and triggered a 'domino effect' catastrophe.   

'When caustic salt air works its way in though and rusts out the steel, the structural bearing capacity of the column is compromised. 

'That can set off a chain reaction of failures which then leads to beams, slabs and other things, and you have a domino effect of collapse. 

'The idea behind is that it failed in the middle from the columns up - that is what that video is showing. 

It's indicative of potentially the columns towards the middle being structurally compromised and potentially, underground the piles and the way in which they are embedded into the bedrock might have been compromised. 

'There was a structural failure... I'm not so keen to commit to why, when, where and how it failed but this is certainly something worth considering. The video is compelling,' Gregg Schlesinger, a general contractor and construction lawyer, told DailyMail.com on Monday.    

'We've seen a 2018 report that says it had rusted out. That is typically the effect of salt air and erosion. 

'If a building isn't maintained over this time period and is allowed to get to the point where you have spalling, what should have been done in 2018 is at least an additional exploration demo work, you demo a small area, the single column that's in the picture to reveal the level. 

'It wasn't done. 

'If proper maintenance occurred it would never have gotten to this point.

'They put it off and they were getting ready to do it 3 years later... it's unacceptable,' he added. 

Seconds before the building collapsed, model Cassondra Billedeau-Stratton woke up to the building shaking. 

She called her husband and told him she could see what looked like a sinkhole forming next to the pool. 

Moments later, the line went dead. 

Her husband has since said he'll 'never forget' that she called at exactly 1.30am. He was out of town.  

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said on Monday morning that the cause of the collapse was secondary to the rescue mission. 

'There's been some discussion about why this happened, that's an issue for another day. 

Right now we have to pull our family and friends out of that rubble.'

'He will get to the bottom of it,' he said.  

'We continue to work the pile, we have over 80 rescuers at a time that are beaching the walls in a frantic effort to rescue those that are still viable and to get to those voids that we know exist in these buildings.'

Rescue teams have not yet found any survivors in the rubble but they have pulled bodies from the debris. Above, rescue teams next to a body on Monday

Rescue teams have not yet found any survivors in the rubble but they have pulled bodies from the debris. Above, rescue teams next to a body on Monday

Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors and to recover remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 28, 2021 in Surfside, Florida

Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors and to recover remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 28, 2021 in Surfside, Florida

A body is hoisted out of the rubble on Monday as search and investigators worked through the rubble

A body is hoisted out of the rubble on Monday as search and investigators worked through the rubble 

Workers search the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Many people were still unaccounted for after Thursday's fatal collapse

Workers search the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Many people were still unaccounted for after Thursday's fatal collapse

Workers search the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Rescue teams say they are confident they may still find people alive

Workers search the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Rescue teams say they are confident they may still find people alive 

Part of the building remains in tact but there are fears it may collapse or will have to be entirely torn down

Part of the building remains in tact but there are fears it may collapse or will have to be entirely torn down 


People embrace at a makeshift memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Surfside, Fla., Monday, June 28, 2021, near the collapsed building for people still missing or dead. Many people were still unaccounted for after Thursday's fatal collapse

People embrace at a makeshift memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Surfside, Fla., Monday, June 28, 2021, near the collapsed building for people still missing or dead. Many people were still unaccounted for after Thursday's fatal collapse

REVEALED: Owners of condos in collapsed Miami tower were warned they'd need to pay $15M for repair weeks before it collapsed as its emerges developers worked around building codes to add penthouse REVEALED: Owners of condos in collapsed Miami tower were warned they'd need to pay $15M for repair weeks before it collapsed as its emerges developers worked around building codes to add penthouse Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 07:44 Rating: 5

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