Updated Jun 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Death toll in Surfside condo collapse rises to 12, prosecutor to seek grand jury

Photo of search and rescue workers climbing over rubble, with collapsed traffic lights hanging over them

Search and rescue teams, June 29 in Surfside, Fla. Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images

The death toll in last week's Surfside condo collapse has risen to 12, with 149 people still unaccounted for, officials said Tuesday evening.

The latest: Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she would ask a grand jury to "look at what steps we can take to safeguard our residents without jeopardizing any scientific, public safety, or potential criminal investigations."

  • The Surfside, Florida, official who said in November 2018 that the Miami-area condo was in satisfactory condition has been placed on leave from his post as interim building official in Doral, Florida, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • The staffing change follows reports that Rosendo "Ross" Prieto reviewed a 2018 report about the Champlain Towers South condo and told residents the building was "in very good shape."
  • On Monday, CAP Government, a firm that provides building department services to government clients, notified the City of Doral that Prieto was on "a leave of absence and assigned another employee to assist the City of Doral Building Department on a temporary basis," city spokesperson Maggie Santos said, per the Miami Herald.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit Surfside on Thursday, nearly a week after the partial collapse of the 12-story residential building that left at least 11 people dead and 150 unaccounted for.

Officials said at a briefing on Tuesday that no new fatalities had been reported, and all families have been notified of the loss of their loved ones.

  • 210 people are on-site at any given time, working 12-hour shifts, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
  • Levine Cava said she was notified Monday night that four balconies in northeast Dade should be "closed to residents due to safety conditions" after a building audit was conducted in the wake of the Surfside disaster.
  • The White House is coordinating Biden's visit with local officials to avoid delays to the search-and-rescue efforts, per the Miami Herald.

Driving the news: Nearly three months before the collapse, the president of the building's condominium association warned residents that the damage highlighted in a 2018 engineer's report had "gotten significantly worse," according to a letter to residents obtained by the New York Times and CNN.

  • “The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse,” Jean Wodnicki wrote in the April 9 letter. “New problems have been identified. ... A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by. But this is where we are now."
  • The letter adds to the body of evidence that concerns had been raised about flaws in the residential building months and years before the deadly collapse, including during a 2018 inspection that warned of "major structural damage" below the pool deck.

The big picture: White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden supports mobilizing federal agencies, including the FBI, to investigate the details of the disaster.

  • “The goal, of course, is to get to the bottom of what happened and, of course, how to be an instructive guide on how to prevent it from happening in the future,” Psaki said.
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