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Sundial

Tropical Storm Elsa And The Latest From Surfside: Lawsuits And The Flowers On The Wall Of Hope

SurfsideMemorialWall_070621.jpeg
MATIAS J. OCNER
/
Miami Herald
A view of the makeshift memorial near the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Florida on Saturday, July 3, 2021.

Tropical Storm Elsa impacts the search and rescue efforts underway in Surfside. A construction attorney on the lawsuits being filed after the collapse. And the people maintaining the Surfside memorial wall, coordinating fresh flowers and visiting almost daily.

On this Tuesday, July 6, episode of Sundial

Tropical Storm Elsa And Surfside Updates

Tropical Storm Elsa brought heavy winds, rain and storms across the Keys Tuesday morning, especially in Key West.

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West of the Keys — the storm is making its way around in the Gulf of Mexico threatening the Tampa area and counties in Central Florida.

“Elsa’s center is going to continue lifting to the north, northwest tonight into tomorrow,” said Megan Borowski, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. “Winds, rain and tornadoes, [are] all possibilities this evening for South Florida.”

The storm’s potential weather threats also had an impact on the Surfside collapse site. Emergency officials were working on a tight timeline because of the storm’s potential weather threats.

Sunday night, what was left of the Champlain Towers South Condo Tower was demolished via a controlled implosion.

“The remaining structure was not very stable and there were ongoing concerns about the potential that the remaining parts of the building could possibly collapse and endanger the search and rescue workers that were working on the scene,” said WLRN reporter Danny Rivero.

The storm’s rain and winds that are impacting South Florida are still complicating the ongoing search and rescue efforts at the site, and briefly caused worked to stop Tuesday for the safety of the emergency workers.

Tropical Storm Elsa And Surfside
Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium on Saturday in the Surfside area of Miami. The building partially collapsed on Thursday.

Lawsuits After The Tragedy

Five lawsuits have been filed against the Champlain Tower South condo board on behalf of survivors and victim’s families, as of Tuesday.

Forensic engineers are on the site of the condo building collapse to investigate the unknown cause of the catastrophe.

“It just seems to me that the first order of business ought to be recovering the victims. And then there's got to be a period of time for grieving. And then you can worry about compensating you for the losses, both personal injury and the property damage,” said Stuart Sobel, a construction attorney with Siegfried Rivera in Coral Gables.

He represented Miami-Dade College after one of its parking garages collapsed in 2012.

Sobel argues that there should be more certainty over what happened or what the causes could have been before the lawsuits start coming in.

He also discussed the potential for suing the county or town in a case like this one, which would not be easy — if even possible — because the county and town are covered by sovereign immunity.

“It makes a lot of sense because when you sue the government, you're really suing yourself,” said Sobel. “You will ultimately wind up having an impact on the tax base. They'll have to raise taxes. So you're taking the money out of your own pocket. That's the philosophy behind sovereign immunity.”

Lawsuits
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The Flowers On The Wall Of Hope

Directly in front of where the Surfside condo collapsed is a makeshift memorial wall.

It sits along the fence of the town’s tennis center — flowers, posters, stuffed animals and other mementos sit there, placed by the victims’ families and the community.

The wall of hope memorial is being maintained by volunteers.

Steven Ferreiro is the founder of the nonprofit Helping Others and Giving Hope and he is also a high school student.

“I made simple calls. I would never have expected the reaction I got from these people saying, ‘Hey, yes, we're interested, let's make that happen. When do you need it?’ ... It's just amazing how the community comes together, not just to help those that are in need ... but also unite and bring hope to others,” he said.

Ferreiro has been at the site almost daily since the collapse and has helped coordinate fresh flower deliveries for the memorial.

“These flowers basically represent that we are thinking of the victims. We are thinking of their families. We are thinking of the survivors. We have them in our prayers, even if it's a little bit of making a difference, even with flowers,” said Laura Sequeira, an executive account manager with Galleria Farms, which has been donating a lot of the flowers.

They have been working along with other volunteers to replace and beautify the memorial wall, which they plan on continuing to do.

Ferreiro and his nonprofit have also been on site providing food and beverages for first responders and rescue workers.

The Flowers On The Wall Of Hope
Family members hold vigil last month for the deceased victims and people who are missing from the condo collapse in Surfside, Fla.

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.