A year after the partial collapse of an apartment building in Surfside, Florida, in which 98 people died, there are still many wounds to close, multimillion-dollar compensation and years of work to solve the big question: What caused the tragedy?
Two of the 98 fatalities, several of them Argentines and from other Latin American countries, were Miguel Pazos, 56, and his daughter, Michelle, 25.
Carlos Pazos, grandfather of the family, was in Havana, Cuba, where he lives, when he learned of the “misfortune” that occurred on June 24, 2021 in the 12-story building in this city near Miami Beach.
Until now he has not been able to travel to the United States to say goodbye to his son and granddaughter.
“No one could ever have imagined an end like this” for them, he lamented in statements to the EFE agency from Havana about the death of his son. He was a “man who went around the world,” he says, and he remembers that night he was in the Champlain building in Surfside with her daughter, visiting from Canada, where she lived with her mother and brother. her.
The names of the 98 killed in the Champlain Tower collapse in Surfside, Florida, on a screen that recalls the tragedy a year later. Photo: AFP
A year after the building collapsed, the man, who was co-chair of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), wants answers.
“What were the reasons, the real causes? And about that there is a strange silence and, of course, very unpleasant for the relatives of the victims, especially now, since there is no remedy from the point of view of their lives, but for oneself,” said the Cuban doctor.
Like him, many relatives and victims of the collapse ask the authorities for explanationsalthough the answers will take time to arrive.
This was explained to EFE by the co-director of the investigations carried out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Judith Mitrani-Reiser, who spent two months working from dawn to dusk on the remains of the building, which was completely demolished for weeks. after its partial collapse.
This expert, who came to Miami from Cuba when she was a girl, understands the impatience of the relatives, but explains that the one in Surfside is one of the “most difficult and complex” investigations that they have faced.
“What is particularly unusual and challenging is the age of the structure when it collapsed and the fact that there is no clear initial event (causing the collapse), even after a year of investigations,” explains an agency researcher. who has worked on disasters such as the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001.
While they still hold “more than two dozen hypotheses” of what happened, this summer they will begin the second part of the investigations, in which they will subject the collected remains of the building to physical and chemical tests. But he explains that “there is no clear initiating event as to why the structure stood and then partially collapsed after 40 years.”
Mitrani-Reiser, co-director of the investigation with Glenn Bell, indicated that the “most intense” phase of the investigation will conclude at the end of September 2023 and the final report and recommendations from NIST will be released a year later.
The destruction at the Surfside building, which collapsed a year ago. Photo: AFP
Multi-million dollar compensation
Carlos, 85, says that the only thing he wants in life is for the US to give him a visa that allows him to travel to Miami to spend a few days with his children and grandchildren and go with them to the place where Miguel and Michelle died, and where her ashes rest.
That, nothing more. None of the multimillion-dollar compensation that has already been approved for the victims: “That, give it to my grandson. All I want is to obtain a visa.”
The families of the victims of the building have already reached a agreement with insurers for 997 million dollars to close one of the pending judicial issues, such as the wrongful death lawsuits that are still in process.
Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, was in the midst of a process known as “recertification,” which involves a review of structures and the electricity installations required by law for buildings over 40 years old.
Due to lack of a visa, Carlos Pazos will not be able to be this Friday with the rest of his family at the scene of the tragedy to honor the memory of the victims of the partial collapse of the 12-story building.
The first public event will be at 1:22 am on Friday morning (local time), the time that the building collapsed a year ago. At that moment they will light a commemorative torch that will remain lit for three weeks, the same weeks that the authorities took to recover the body of the last fatality.
The following day, the official tribute to the victims will be held, an event attended by the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, and in which family members, rescue team personnel and local authorities are expected to participate.