US marks one year since Surfside condo collapse that killed 98

The anniversary comes after victims and their families reached a $1.2bn settlement in the incident.

surfside condo
A man places flowers on a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Surfside Champlain Towers South condominium collapse [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Florida has marked one year since a condominium collapsed in the town of Surfside, killing 98 people.

The anniversary of Friday came a day after a Florida judge approved a compensation settlement of $1.2bn for victims and their families.

The settlement was reached with an array of parties, including the condominium association, the city of Surfside, and various companies that designed the Champlain Towers South.

Judge Michael Hanzman had praised the dozens of lawyers involved in reaching the settlement, which comes amid an ongoing investigation into the collapse by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that is expected to take years.

“This settlement is the best we can do. It’s a remarkable result,” he said.

Crews from the United States and Israel work in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo
Crews from the United States and Israel work in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo in June 2021 [File: Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press]

On Friday, First Lady Jill Biden was set to make an address at a memorial ceremony in Surfside with Mayor Shlomo Danzinger.

Friday’s agenda also includes a private overnight gathering for families to light a torch.

Just three people – two teenagers and woman – inside of the collapsed tower survived on June 24, 2021. Others escaped from the portion of the building that initially remained standing.

A huge search in the following days yielded misery, as only remains were found inside of the collapsed building.

The victims included local residents as well as visitors who were Orthodox Jews, Latin Americans, Israelis, Europeans and elderly US citizens who traveled to Florida annually to escape the cold in the North.

Earlier this month, the Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution to declare June 24 Champlain Towers South-Surfside Remembrance Day in Miami-Dade County.

Despite the ceremonies and settlement, the family of some victims said closure will not come until the federal investigation is complete.

“This is a nightmare that never ends,” Pablo Langesfeld, whose 26-year-old son died in the collapse, told the Associated Press news agency.

The federal investigation into the deadly collapse entered a new phase last week that involves cutting and drilling into concrete and steel to determine what role they played in the disaster, officials said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology said in a news release that what is known as invasive testing will begin soon as investigators seek samples from materials collected at the collapsed Champlain Towers South site.

“This is an important step in the investigation, one we are able to take only after months of careful investigation and preparation,” said Glenn Bell, co-leader of the investigation.

Source: News Agencies