Agency that investigated fall of Twin Towers could probe Florida condo collapse

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A federal agency that investigated the fall of the Twin Towers is on the ground in Miami to determine whether to probe last week’s deadly collapse of the Champlain Tower, a new report says. 

Scientists and engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology arrived at the Florida site on Friday to begin collecting data, the Miami Herald reported. 

The little-known agency, which is part of the Department of Commerce, is tasked with investigating disasters that either result in “substantial loss of life” or had the potential to cause such destruction, spokeswoman Jennifer Huergo told the outlet. 

The agency’s power comes from the National Construction Safety Team Act, a federal law passed after 9/11, which allows it to probe substantial building failures while focusing on recommended changes to codes, standards and practices to ensure similar disasters don’t reoccur.

“The NIST experts will work with federal, state and local authorities to identify and preserve materials that might be helpful in understanding why the collapse occurred,” the rep said in a statement. 

“We’ll do it as long as it takes,” Huergo said. 

Thursday’s partial collapse of the condo building in Surfside, a small town in Miami Beach just south of Bal Harbour, has resulted in nine confirmed deaths, but more than 150 residents remain unaccounted for and signs of life are dwindling, rescue workers said over the weekend. 

Any investigation into the collapse — either by NIST, private forensic engineers or a combination of the two — will be similar, said Abieyuwa Aghayere, a forensic engineering professor at Drexel University, to the outlet. 

“They will come up with possible failure hypotheses for this type of failure,” said Aghayere, an expert in structural steel design and reinforced concrete, which were used to build the Champlain Tower. 

“At first, they won’t rule anything out. They will put everything out on the table.”

The team will then collect evidence, including original drawings, pictures of the collapse, debris, soil samples and interviews with residents and staff, and attempt to figure out how the catastrophe happened — a process that could take years to complete, the outlet said. 

John Pistorino, a Miami-based engineer, told the outlet that complex investigations of this nature typically involve a tedious partial reconstruction to allow investigators to pinpoint precise flaws. But at this point, there appears to be no exact cause. 

NIST’s approach to the Champlain Tower tragedy is similar to how the National Transportation Safety Board handles their investigations, the outlet said. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was also on the ground Friday to figure out if the collapse will be probed by its investigators.

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