SURFSIDE, Fla. – A very frustrated forensic engineer was sitting in a makeshift office inside Surfside Town Hall analyzing plans Wednesday night.
At the end of this week, Allyn Kilsheimer says he’s leaving — without all the information he needs to get to the bottom of what happened at the Champlain Towers South in the early hours of June 24.
Miami-Dade County police call the site and the debris a crime scene, and they are protecting evidence.
“It makes it harder, because I’m pissed off I can’t get what I want when I want it,” Kilsheimer told Local 10 News.
Kilsheimer is used to being part of the team, not sidelined.
“In order to figure out what happened, there is a lot of information we need to get,” he said. “And it requires access to site and access to materials that were on the site. That have now been trucked off the site. Right now, we can’t get that access.”
But his request for access has been denied.
“We need to follow our investigative processes,” Miami-Dade County Police Director Freddy Ramirez said. “At a later date when it seems appropriate, when we have a collaborative agreement of when we can do those things, we will be moving forward. But right now the scene is active and we really want to keep everything pure and concise.”
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Kilsheimer says he’s not looking to interfere with the recovery, but to work alongside it. As he has all over the United States.
“This is the first time that I have not been given access,” said Kilsheimer, who has designed 200 buildings in Washington, D.C., alone.
As a forensic engineer, he was at the Pentagon four hours after the 9/11 attack. He’s also investigated the FIU bridge collapse and the Miami Dade College garage collapse.
He says he can’t even get access to the sites where Surfside debris is being stored offsite.
“We don’t have access to anything,” he said. “We can only go so far until we know what the materials are that the building was made out of.”
He asked to analyze drone video of the site.
“I said since I can’t have access, I’d like to see that. I saw a note that said, ‘Your request is denied.’”
He’s worried that without being consulted, vital elements could be destroyed.
“Onsite, it is really important when they get to the basement slab, everything cleaned up, they leave it like that,” he said. “Cause we have to do certain things that require us to look at things through the top basement slab and taking out part of the basement slab.”
Local 10 asked Kilsheimer if not having access will ultimately hamper his investigation?
“It will just take longer,” he said. “I don’t know what they are going to do ... I don’t know if Miami-Dade police have their own specialist that understands these things. I have no idea.”
Not knowing when he may get access, Kilsheimer says he may return to Washington and to “keep working up there as best I can with all my folks.”
He says he has a team of 15 working on this back in the nation’s capital. They are doing computer and engineering models, but without concrete core samples, there is only so much they can do, Kilsheimer says.
He has taken some samples from the twin building, Champlain Towers North, but for now he remains in a holding pattern.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told Local 10 News that he plans to call Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to see if she can get the engineer his town hired access to the site.
To read more about Kilsheimer’s work, click here.