Disasters & Accidents

Surfside pays tribute to 98 condo collapse victims with banner

Miami, May 12 (EFE).- The South Florida city of Surfside on Thursday unveiled a huge banner at the site where almost a year ago the Champlain Towers South condo building collapsed before dawn on June 24, 2021, a tragedy that took the lives of 98 residents.

“Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers sisters – 98 souls lost their lives on June 24, 2021 – forever in our hearts” reads the memorial banner placed on the fence surrounding the accident site along with the names of those who perished in the sudden collapse of the 12-story seaside condo building.

The banner spanning the length of the block where the building stood is a kind of temporary memorial while the small coastal community goes through the procedures and analyses to establish a permanent memorial, with local authorities studying assorted proposals and designs, as Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger, who took office six weeks ago, said at the banner presentation.

The banner might seem just a small gesture, but that’s not the case for the relatives of the victims, who thanked Danzinger for the initiative to pay tribute to their loved ones who died “needlessly,” as Argentina’s Pablo Langesfeld, the father of Nicole Langesfeld, one of the people who died in the tragedy, said.

Saying that the investigation into the collapse is a criminal probe and needs to be brought to a conclusion, Langesfeld added that “As far as closure, I don’t think it will ever happen. It would help some, but I think my real closure and wrongful death closure will happen when we know who’s at fault.”

He acknowledged, however, that the process of assigning blame “could take years” and added that “nobody should have to go through this” and recalling the “open wound” left by his daughter’s death, noting that she was recently married and had moved into the condo just three months before it collapsed.

Chana Wasserman, the daughter of Tzvi and Itty Ainsworth, who were among the 98 victims, took advantage of the occasion to reiterate the need for stricter laws regarding building safety.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, along with County Commissioner Sally Heyman, noted the recent law passed unanimously that strengthens the protocols regarding building construction and inspection.

Levine Cava thanked the emergency workers who dug through the rubble from the collapse for days to recover the bodies of the dead, along with the local and national authorities who provided their help and the international community who by expressing their “love … and cocern” supported the Surfside community in their time of need.

The presentation of the banner came one day after the relatives of the victims reached a $997 million settlement in a Miami court, which the relatives preferred not to discuss so as to give priority to Thursday’s tribute to the dead.

The judge presiding in the case, County Magistrate Michael Hanzman, ruled that the distribution of the settlement funds agreed to among insurers and plaintiffs will be determined in accord with the participation that each had in the building that partially collapsed.

Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, was in the middle of a process known as “recertification,” which consists of a review of its structure and electrical wiring required by law for buildings built 40-plus years ago.

Three years before the tragedy, a report prepared by an engineering firm warned of a series of structural problems at the site that it said required urgent attention.

The partial collapse of the structure left the remaining apartments uninhabitable and thus the entire building was razed on July 4, 2021.

EFE lce/jip/rrt/bp

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