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Expert hired to investigate Champlain Towers South collapse studying north tower first, testing concrete and steel

Surfside has hired an expert with extensive experience to investigate the cause of the Champlain Towers South collapse.
Surfside has hired an expert with extensive experience to investigate the cause of the Champlain Towers South collapse.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The Town of Surfside hired an expert with extensive experience to investigate the cause of the Champlain Towers South collapse.

That man is Allyn Kilsheimer of KCE Structural Engineers.

He was called upon to investigate the World Trade Center attack and the Oklahoma City bombing.

On Monday, he brought Local 10 along as he searched for clues at Champlain Towers North, the still-standing sister structure of the now-collapsed south building.

“We are just understanding how the building was put together in this north building, which will help us understand a little bit better in the south building,” Kilsheimer said.

Champlain Towers North in Surfside, Fla. (WPLG)

Inside a penthouse unit, the structural engineer directed crews to drill into concrete from a balcony column and floor.

“We have scanned parts of the slab and some columns to locate reinforcing steel,” Kilsheimer said. “And then we have dripped some concrete core samples in the slabs, avoiding the reinforcing steel where we could. The holes will all be cleaned out and filled in with 8,000 PSI concrete before we leave today.”

Those materials are being gathered for analysis.

“This will tell me the strength of the material that’s in this building that we don’t know, so we are finding out by testing in place,” Kilsheimer said. “Studying the north tower just helps us better understand a little bit how the building was put together and that may not be how the south building was put together.”

From a balcony on Champlain North, he can see the footprint of the south tower.

Explaining his work investigating the collapse site to the actual site of the collapse will start once the current recovery mission ends.

“The police department has made the site a criminal investigation site and they have not yet given the right to do any of that sampling,” Kilsheimer explained. “We are waiting to get the right to be able to test samples in the south building from the debris piles, and then we will understand what that strength is.”

Samples he would like to take from the collapse site include reinforced steel, concrete, balcony and pool deck waterproofing and tile.

“We want to be able to essentially remove the lowest slab, and we essentially want to shoot ground waves down into the ground, down to the bottom of the limestone and through the limestone and shoot more sound waves down through the piles to see if there are any voids in the piles, to totally understand if anything bad that went on below the building,” he said.

Kilsheimer said his investigation will take several months and he expects there will be several contributing factors.

Investigating a building collapse without a known cause is rare.

RELATED LINKS

Surfside collapse complete coverage

HOW TO HELP: A list of resources to support those impacted by building collapse

PHOTOS: Loved ones name those they say are missing


About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."