There was nothing
unusual about the lobby and pool area at Champlain Towers
South condo, which looked clean and well maintained to a
commercial pool contractor who visited the building last
Tuesday, just 36 hours before half of the building
unexpectedly collapsed. Then, he saw the basement-level
“There was standing
water all over the parking garage,” the contractor, who
asked not to be named, told the Miami Herald. He noted
cracking concrete and severely corroded rebar under the
took photos, which he shared with the Herald.
The contractor visited the condo building
last week to put together a bid for a cosmetic restoration
of the pool as well as to price out new pool equipment — a
small piece of the multimillion-dollar restoration project
that just was getting underway at the 40-year-old building.
While he had worked in the industry for decades and had
“gone in some scary places,” he said he was struck by the
lack of maintenance in the lower level. The amount of water
at Champlain Towers seemed so unusual that the contractor
mentioned it to a building staff member, Jose, who was
showing him around.
“He thought it was waterproofing issues,” the contractor
said of the staff member. “I thought to myself, that’s not
normal.” He said Jose told him they pumped the pool
equipment room so frequently that the building had to
replace pump motors every two years, but he never mentioned
anything about structural damage or cracks in the concrete
Cracks in concrete, exposed rebar and wet floor in
the pool equipment room of Champlain Towers South, in photos taken
just 36 hours before the building collapsed.
The deepest puddle of
standing water, according to the contractor, was located
around parking spot 78 — an area that building plans show is
located directly under the pool deck where in a 2018
inspection report, engineer Frank Morabito had flagged a
“major error” in the original design that was allowing water
intrusion and causing serious damage to the structural
concrete slabs below.
He did not photograph
that standing water because he was there to examine the pool
and what was underneath it.
In the pool equipment room, located on the south side of the
underground garage, the contractor saw another problem —
exposed and corroding rebar in the concrete slab overhead.
He snapped some pictures and sent them to his supervisor
along with a note expressing concern that the job might be a
bit more complicated than expected. He worried they would
have to remove pool pipes to allow concrete restoration
experts access to repair the slabs.
The building caved in two days later, before they had time
to complete their bid.
“I wonder if this was going on in other parts of the
building and caused this collapse,” he said.
CBS4’s Jim DeFede interviewed William
Espinosa, a Champlain maintenance manager from the late
1990s, who said ocean saltwater would make its way into the
underground garage — so much that “pumps never could keep up
The Champlain Towers South condo pool deck,
photographed by a pool contractor on June 22, just two days before
the building collapsed.
Maxwell Marcucci, a
representative for the Champlain Towers South condo
association, declined to comment Monday on whether the
association was aware of the issues the pool contractor
Mohammad Ehsani, an
engineer and concrete restoration expert who invented
QuakeWrap technology, a way to reinforce old concrete
columns, reviewed the contractor’s photos from the pool
“You can see extensive
corrosion of the rebars at the bottom of the beam. That is
very serious,” Ehsani said, commenting it was the worst
damage he had seen documented in the building so far. The
equipment room runs along the southern wall of the building
— an area that did not collapse.
“If the condition of the beam in the pool guy’s photo is
something that was also happening under the building, that
is a really major concern,” Ehsani said. In that case, it
“absolutely” could have contributed to the collapse.
However, he cautioned against rushing to conclude that all
beams in the building showed similar levels of damage to
those exposed to chemicals from the pool. The 2018 report
that documented “severe” structural damage to concrete in
the garage under the pool deck did not include photos of
anything nearly as alarming as what the pool contractor
documented, Ehsani said.
A commercial pool contractor indicated
where he saw serious corrosion in the Champlain Towers South
pool equipment room in a photo he took two days before the
building collapsed. Courtesy
Either way, the damage in the photo should have been a
Metadata on the photographs confirmed they were taken when
the contractor said they were: the morning of June 22.
“In these buildings that are asymmetrical like this one,
there is a possibility that if you have one part of the
building that collapses, the building does some turning and
twisting,” Ehsani said. “In this case, it is possible that a
failure any place in this building could cause distortion to
the frame of the building and could cause a collapse in any
of the areas, not just adjacent [to the failure].”