Surfside condo collapse

Investigation Into Surfside Tragedy Starts Taking Shape

This investigation will be the largest death investigation ever in Miami-Dade County

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The teams looking into what caused the tragedy are organizing how to go through what eventually will be 40 million pounds of debris. This side of the investigation moves forward after the officials announced the transition from rescue to recovery.  

Miami-Dade Police requested NBC 6 not disclose the location.

“It will be gone through with a fine-tooth comb to find out if they can determine what caused the disaster to occur,” said Miami-Dade Police Homicide Detective John Butchko, who led the investigation into the Valujet crash 25 years ago, where all 110 people on board died after the flight went down about 10 minutes after taking off from Miami.

While multiple investigations are being conducted, police will look to see if a crime was committed. Butchko said detectives are relying heavily at the beginning on those with construction backgrounds.

"Have the experts — structural engineers, experts on erosion—with the concrete — they will probably do some testing with items that are weakened to see what that is. They should be able to pinpoint an area where this all started and why it started," Butchko said. "The next step is to see who is responsible. Is it something that could have been prevented?"

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said that the grand jury will also be investigating. The evidence detectives find there will be presented to grand jurors.

“Based on that information they will go to the prosecutors and determine if anyone should be held responsible criminally," Butchko said. "They at some point will be called before the grand jury — to testify in front of the grand jury — and lay out the case and the knowledge that they have.“

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced Wednesday that first responders were shifting from a search and rescue effort for potential survivors of the Surfside condo collapse to recovering the bodies of the victims.

In addition to the detailed task of going through debris, detectives will also pour over mounds of paperwork.

“They’re looking for records — falsifying records, changing records, destroying records," Butchko said.

Butchko said that in the ValuJet crash, there were charges filed against employees at an aircraft maintenance company.

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