wplg logo

Does Surfside site still present a danger? Engineer thinks so

Despite millions of pounds of rubble cleared, a structural engineer hired by the town to determine a cause doesn't like what he sees right now.
Despite millions of pounds of rubble cleared, a structural engineer hired by the town to determine a cause doesn't like what he sees right now.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – There are new safety concerns at the site of the Champlain Towers South, which is practically empty right now after millions of pounds of debris were removed after the collapse. But one engineer fears the structure is still a grave risk.

A structural engineer for 63 years, Alyin Kilsheimer was hired by the Town of Surfside to determine a cause for the tragedy that has claimed at least 96 lives, but he is now saying that there is a safety issue with the site and, also along Collins Avenue. That could mean anyone walking even near the site could be in danger.

Kilsheimer said as the site sits today there is a very real hazard.

He said that within the scope of his duties to the Town of Surfside, that if he sees something that effects the potential life safety of the public, he has to properly notify authorities. And that’s what he did.

There are photos of the Champlain Towers collapse site and on those, he points out the walls of concern, which are the foundational walls of the building.

In a lengthy letter, which he also sent, along with the photos to Surfside’s town manager, its police chief, and Miami-Dade County’s mayor, Kilsheimer lays out his concerns.

“We believe there is a potentially dangerous situation at the site, where the wall is in danger of collapse. It is essentially acting as a bathtub, which it was not designed to be. When the exterior ground becomes saturated with rainwater, the situation becomes more severe.”

“When roadway surge (i.e., emergency vehicles, trucks, cars, and pedestrians) are adjacent to the wall, mainly on 89th Street and Collins Avenue, the over stress is increased even more substantially.”

“If the wall fails in the above situation, it would most probably behave in a blow-out mode for a substantial extent of the length, which would put people inside the open hole, as well as those walking or driving by the site when the roadways reopen (which we understand is imminent), at substantial risk.”

We ask him: “If traffic were to reopen and this wouldn’t be fixed and I was walking down Collins Avenue, would I be in danger?”

“If this wasn’t fixed and the street was totally open and the traffic wasn’t limited and you were walking on the sidewalk, I’d go to the other side of the street,” Kilsheimer advised.

His letter goes on to fully answer the question.

“If the wall were to collapse or rotate substantially into the basement, the retained soil under the street and sidewalk could move with it, which could cause portions of the street to collapse and could seriously compromise the utilities under the street due to loss of bearing.”

For now, Kilsheimer lays out the possible problems. Now, there needs to be a solution.

About the Authors:

Reporter Rosh Lowe is covering the Surfside building collapse and other news for Local 10 News.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.