Jul 8, 2021

Surfside, FL Condo Collapse Update Press Conference Transcript July 8

Surfside, FL Condo Collapse Update Press Conference Transcript July 8
RevBlogTranscriptsSurfside, FL Condo Collapse Update Press Conference Transcript July 8

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Surfside officials held a press conference on July 8, 2021 to address updates on the condo collapse. Read the transcript of the news briefing speech here.

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Speaker 1: (00:01)
Welcome to the joint operational media brief. I welcome to the podium Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: (00:12)
Thank you so much. Yesterday was a day of transition one in which when our remarkable first responders, the search and rescue teams, our police and fire that have spent the last two weeks digging through that rubble, desperately trying to find the potential for survivors, transitioned to recovery.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: (00:39)
When that happened, it took a little piece of the hearts of this community. I just first want to thank all of the first responders and everyone who has been involved in this effort, because without them, I’m not sure that the families would have been able to be sustained in the way that they have been. And now we’re going to be there for them going forward through the next phase of this.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: (01:08)
Part of my responsibility, in addition to thanking the mayor and this incredible team that is assembled behind me, is going to be to make sure that when the cameras turn off and when the hard work begins to make sure that the recovery for not only those that have been lost, but the families who have lost everything that, that we make sure that that pathway is as smooth as possible.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: (01:31)
So I’ve been working with our federal agencies, NIST, the SBA, FEMA, OSHA, so many of the federal agencies that are going to be a part of the long-term needs that each of these families is going to have, that the communities that I have the privilege of representing in Washington are going to have. Because, obviously, in an unimaginable, unprecedented tragedy like this one, no one budgets for this. No one plans for the kind of response that is necessary.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: (02:00)
So making sure that we stay in this for the long haul is going to be absolutely essential. And we don’t know just what the needs are going to be. Some of them are going to be needs that we can try to accommodate by adding to the federal budget. Some of them may ultimately end up requiring an emergency supplemental appropriations bill. I’m going to be continuing to work with, with my colleagues here to make those determinations and also working at the very most personal level with my constituents to see how we can help them just get through the overwhelming bureaucracy that this tragedy has represented.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: (02:39)
Imagine being a family who has lost everything, including loved ones, and the devastation that they’re trying to climb out of also having to deal [inaudible 00:02:50] lives. That’s my job. That’s the job of my team, is to help make sure that we can help them if not ever become whole again, to make that we can start to piece back together the shards of their life that have been blown apart. So it’s a great privilege to be able to do that and to work with this incredible team to help get them to that place. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1: (03:13)
Thank you, Congresswoman. I welcome Governor Ron DeSantis.

Ron DeSantis: (03:19)
While were, the last two days, monitoring and responding to tropical storm/hurricane Elsa, kind of job toggle back and forth. As these things go probably as minimal impact as we would have anticipated if we went back four or five days, there was not any widespread property damage. Unfortunately, there was one reported fatality it was kind of a freak thing where a tree fell on somebody in a vehicle. And so we were obviously very, very sad to see that. But in terms of any widespread damage, it came, there’s some water, there was relatively modest wind, and then it moved through the state. And obviously the further west it tracked the less impacts that we saw here, which is something that we were obviously concerned about.

Ron DeSantis: (04:04)
We’re also working to provide as much relief to the families from the state perspective as we can. So, I’ve ordered all our folks to suspend any type of property tax enforcement. I know Mayor Cava is doing the same for these notices. And my goal is, is to suspend, waive any law I can under the State of Emergency to forestall that. And then we probably will just ask the legislature to remit any of the property tax liability from Champlain Tower South. So we’ll work hard on that and I think we’ll be able to get that done.

Ron DeSantis: (04:39)
Also going to meet with some families about any outstanding needs. I think FEMA has been great. The County has been great. We have charitable organizations, Florida DEM has been all hands on deck. But there are things that pop up that maybe people weren’t thinking about, so we want to be responsive. And there’s been a huge outpouring of charitable interests, not just from some of the organizations that we know, but either other folks who are asking me how they can help so I think we want to channel that in appropriate ways.

Ron DeSantis: (05:07)
And then finally, just with yesterday’s news, it’s very sad. I remember getting the call that said there was a partial collapse of a condo tower and I didn’t see images yet. I was thinking maybe some balconies fell and then you saw the images on TV. When I was en route down here I was like, “Oh man, that looks pretty bad.” Then when you got here, the TV didn’t do it justice. And so it was a really devastating thing.

Ron DeSantis: (05:34)
We hoped that there would be survivors located and when we didn’t get it initially, it really gnawed at you inside. I know it was just absolutely terrible for the families to just not get any information about a survivor being found. The best efforts were being employed for sure. And then I remember, I think it was the Saturday after it happened, being out there more debris was being removed, but then some of the smoke and the fires and I just had a real bad feeling. It was like in the pit of my stomach just, “Man, this is not good.”

Ron DeSantis: (06:09)
But they kept carrying on. They did all that they can, they did all that they could. But it’s been a rough couple of weeks and I think the waiting and “Is there hope? Will we be able to have a miracle?” I know it’s weighed a lot on the families. It’s weighed on the whole community, I know it’s weighed on all of us who’ve been participating in this response. So yesterday was tough. I appreciated what they did for doing the vigil.

Ron DeSantis: (06:36)
But the work’s going to go on and obviously they’re going to identify every single person. And we obviously want to do all we can for the survivors and the family members to get them on their feet as best as we possibly can. And it’s not going to be easy. This is a big void that’s going to be felt, not just in these families but in this community as a whole. We understand that pretty soon there won’t be cameras here, but we understand that this is something where the needs are going to continue and so we want to be there and we want to be helpful for folks.

Speaker 1: (07:12)
Thank you, Mr. Governor. Lieutenant Governor, Jeanette Nunez.

Jeanette Nunez: (07:15)
Good morning. [Spanish 00:07:24]

Speaker 1: (09:58)
Thank you, Lieutenant Governor. And Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Daniella Levine Cava: (10:05)
Good morning. Here we are on the morning of Day 15. It’s officially two weeks since this unthinkable and unprecedented tragedy shook our community and the world. Our teams paused their work on the pile this morning around 1:20 AM for a brief moment of silence to honor the two week mark since the collapse. And we have now officially transitioned from search and rescue from search and recovery.

Daniella Levine Cava: (10:40)
The work continues with all speed and urgency. All task forces are being deployed from across the country and the world. We are working around the clock to recover victims and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can. Since our last briefing, the team has recovered additional victims. The number of confirmed deaths is now 60 with 35 victims identified and 34 next of kin notified, 200 people are accounted for and 80 are potentially unaccounted for.

Daniella Levine Cava: (11:19)
Our detectives are working hand in hand with the crime scene and medical examiner personnel, moving as fast as we can to identify the victims and notify the next of kin in order to bring closure to the families.

Daniella Levine Cava: (11:33)
And I also want to take a moment to talk about the extraordinary work that our team is putting into the recovery of victims on the site. Every victim we recover is handled with extreme care and compassion. We have had faith leaders embedded in our operation since the beginning. Including rabbis and a faith-based organization called Zaka, that’s working directly with the Miami-Dade Police Department to do everything possible to handle the remains of Jewish victims in a manner consistent with the Jewish faith and with all the care and sensitivity possible. We have a tent designated on site, and when a Jewish body is discovered, a prayer is performed and specific protocols are followed to honor both the faith traditions and the integrity of the investigation.

Daniella Levine Cava: (12:20)
We’re also proceeding to collect and catalog the following personal items as they’re identified on site: any illegal or identifying documents, any photos or albums, school graduation documents, jewelry, wallets with documents such as credit cards, debit cards, etc, and also small communication devices like cell phones, tablets, and iPads. Any religious items, any engraved items, any firearms, any safes and any currency is being specially set aside.

Daniella Levine Cava: (12:57)
If found our team will be carefully tagging these items and we’re creating a process for families to submit reports about such items that they’re missing as we work hard in the weeks and months ahead to reunite family members with whatever items are possible.

Daniella Levine Cava: (13:12)
I want to thank all the first responders and all the teams who’ve given everything they have to our search and rescue. And now to our recovery mission. You are our heroes and sheroes. Please Pray for the families who are grappling with impossible news and who are grieving. May God give peace to all those whose hearts have been broken and watch over and care for this community in the difficult days and months ahead.

Daniella Levine Cava: (13:43)
[Spanish 00:13:43]

Speaker 1: (15:26)
Thank you Madam Mayor. Surfside mayor, Charles Burkett.

Charles Burkett: (15:28)
Yeah. Good morning. As we move into an additional phase of the rescue/recovery operation, it is now more critical than ever to make sure that the families have every bit of governmental and private support that can be afforded. To that end, I met with Governor DeSantis and Mayor Cava regarding the aggregation of these support agencies, the many support agencies. I know that getting all of our available resources to the families as soon as possible is everyone’s main goal.

Charles Burkett: (16:03)
On a different subject, I want to add that in addition to the ground penetrating radar that we have employed on the structural members at the Champlain North Tower, we’ve also taken core samples of concrete to determine the strength and composition looking for a potential salt content, which can significantly compromise the structure.

Charles Burkett: (16:24)
Lastly, I want to express my heartfelt thanks from Surfside and all of our residents to President Biden, Senators Scott and Rubio, Governor DeSantis, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senator Pizzo for the incredible support and dedicated support and consistent support that they have provided to this town and our families in this rescue effort.

Charles Burkett: (16:53)
I want to direct extra special gratitude to Mayor Cava for steady, consistent, and compassionate leadership. However, I want to save and express my most passionate thanks to the search and rescue teams, all of our fire and police departments and they’re professional and dedicated leaders. Among them, Chief Cominski, Chief Jadallah, Director Ramirez and our own town manager, Andy Hyatt and our police chief, Julio Yero. Surfside loves and thanks you all for everything that you have done and continue to do.

Charles Burkett: (17:32)
By the way, we are all still praying for a miracle. We haven’t given up all hope. Thank you for continuing to pray for our families.

Speaker 1: (17:45)
Thank you Mr. Mayor. Representing the Small Business Administration, Roberto Baltodano.

Roberto Baltodano: (17:53)
Good morning, everyone. We are announcing today that we are relocating the Business Recovery Center just around the corner from where we are. We’re currently at 96th and Collins. Effective tomorrow, we’re going to be at 9484 Harding Avenue, which is again just around the corner from where we are.

Roberto Baltodano: (18:09)
Any individual who is unable to visit us either at the Family Assistant Center and/or at the Business Recovery Center can visit us on line at sba.gov/disaster. Or give us a call at 1-800-659-2955. [Spanish 00:18:54] Thank you.

Speaker 1: (18:55)
Thank you, Roberto. Now our Creole translator, Leonan Letterborn.

Leonan Letterborn: (19:41)
[Creole 00:19:41]

Speaker 1: (19:41)
Thank you, Leonan. And as usual, as we’ve been as transparent as possible answering all the questions to you, unfortunately, the mayor has a really tight deadline to be at the Board of County Commissioners within the next 30 minutes. So we’re going to allow one question and then they’ll have to leave.

Speaker 9: (20:44)
Does it look any different now that we’re calling the operation a recovery? [inaudible 00:20:51].

Daniella Levine Cava: (20:51)
It’s proceeding just as rapidly with just as many people on the pile. There are some slightly technical differences that I’ll allow the fire chief to explain. But essentially we are taking as much care as ever to proceed to find victims in the rubble.

Speaker 1: (21:10)
We literally have one minute left.

Speaker 10: (21:16)
Unfortunately the ultimate number is going to be more than double what it is today as far as confirmed. I know we’re only two plus weeks in, but any discussions about a future Memorial at the site where people can go and pray, down the road?

Daniella Levine Cava: (21:34)
I think for most of us, we don’t want to have it be business as usual. We want to do something different to commemorate and certainly discussions have begun how that could happen.

Speaker 1: (21:46)
Thank you folks, I appreciate it. 5:30 is the next briefing time, same place-

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