Prosecutors Will Ask Grand Jury to Probe Surfside Building Collapse

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she would bring the matter before grand jurors soon

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Elected officials pledged Tuesday to conduct multiple investigations into the collapse of an oceanfront South Florida condo tower, vowing to convene a grand jury and to look closely “at every possible angle” to prevent any other building from experiencing such a catastrophic failure.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she and her staff will meet with engineering, construction and geology experts, among others, to review building safety issues and develop recommendations "to ensure a tragedy like this will never, ever happen again.”

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she will pursue a grand jury investigation to examine factors and decisions that led to Thursday’s collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South in Surfside. The disaster killed at least 11 people and left 150 unaccounted for.

Even as officials looked to the future to determine the cause of the collapse, they were resolute in vowing to continue the effort to find survivors.

On the sixth day of a painstaking search, Gov. Ron DeSantis evoked a well-known military commitment to leave no one behind on the battlefield and pledged to do the same for the people still missing in the rubble.

“The way I look at it, as an old Navy guy, is when somebody is missing in action, in the military, you’re missing until you’re found. We don’t stop the search," DeSantis said at a news conference.

"I think that’s what is happening. Those first responders are breaking their backs trying to find anybody they can. I think they are going to continue to do that. They’ve been very selfless. They’ve put themselves at risk to do it.”

The collapse has drawn scrutiny of the safety of older high-rise buildings throughout South Florida. Cava ordered a 30-day audit on whether buildings 40 years old or older are complying with a required recertification of their structural integrity, and that any issues raised by inspections are being addressed. She’s also urged municipalities within the county to follow suit.

On Tuesday, the mayor said building inspections have found four balconies in one building in Miami-Dade County that “must be immediately closed due to safety concerns.”

Previous grand juries in South Florida have examined other large-scale disasters, such as the 2018 collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University, which killed six people. That investigation is ongoing.

Criminal charges in such matters are possible, such as the third-degree felony murder and manslaughter charges brought in the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592, which killed 110 people in the Everglades.

AP and NBC 6
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