‘There’s no smoking gun’: Central Florida engineer helping solve what led to Surfside condo collapse

The collapse was catastrophic, a portion of the building people called home failed them.

While rescue crews search for survivors among the Surfside condo collapse, engineers search for answers as to why and how this happened.

Joel Figueroa-Vallines is a forensic structural engineer with SEP in Orlando. He’s in Surfside volunteering in the investigation and learning from what went wrong.

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“There’s no smoking gun,” Figueroa-Vallines said. “And in forensics, we welcome multiple theories.”

Three years ago, an engineering firm said the Champlain Towers South needed more $9 million in major repairs. The condo in Surfside was built in the 1980s, and it was up for its 40-year recertification.

“I think we need to revisit our requirements (and) the frequency of inspections, potentially,” Figueroa-Vallines said.

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There is no statewide rule on the books that calls for a routine inspection after a building is built and standing for years.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the only counties that require buildings to go through a reinspection process at 40 years.

Figueroa-Vallines is hoping after this tragedy that city, county and state leaders take a good, hard look at maintenance and inspection requirements.

READ: Surfside condo collapse: Crew spoke to woman but couldn’t save her

“If we don’t take care of ourselves, we don’t age very well. So same thing with a building,” he said. If it’s not properly maintained, it doesn’t age very well.”

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.