Florida condo disaster: A look at other major US building collapses in recent history

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In the wake of the collapse of a condo near Miami on June 24, here is a look at major building collapses in the U.S. throughout recent history caused by structural failures.

The 12-story oceanfront condo in Surfside, Florida, northeast of Miami, partially collapsed, sending rescuers sifting through the rubble, the Miami Herald reported.

The cause of the collapse is unknown as of Thursday afternoon.

About 70 of the condo’s 130 apartments were destroyed or damaged, according to Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management.

Harbour Cay Condominium in Cocoa Beach, FL

The five-story condominium called Harbour Cay in Cocoa Beach collapsed March 27, 1981, due to multiple construction and design problems just as workers were pouring concrete for the roof slab, according to Florida Today.

The building “pancaked,” killing 11 people and injuring 23 others.

Michael Hocko told Florida Today he was talking to a coworker on the roof when the building ”buckled” and collapsed.

“The whole everything just fell out from under my feet. And next thing I knew I was laying on top of the forms. And there was guys that were in the mud and rebar, they were tangled up in the rebar,” he told the outlet. “And I was fortunate that I was on top of one of the forms that didn’t have concrete on it so it didn’t get completely smashed.”

Grand Central Hotel in New York City

The 400-room, eight-story Grand Central Hotel opened in 1870 in New York and was built by architect Henry Engelbert, according to the non-profit Village Preservation. At the time, it was one of the biggest hotels in the U.S.

The hotel was once one of the most elegant in the country — but throughout the 20th century, its name was changed to Broadway Central and used as a welfare hotel by the 1960s.

On August 3, 1973, the hotel collapsed due to “years of neglect and unreported interior renovation work,” according to Village Preservation. Most of the more than 300 guests had been evacuated, but a large portion of the hotel collapsed, killing four people.

2000 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, MA

A 16-story high-rise apartment building at 2000 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts, collapsed Jan. 25, 1971, while still under construction.

A roof failure caused a collapse “all the way to the basement,” resulting in the deaths of four workers. A majority of the employees working on the building were able to escape.

L’Ambiance Plaza in Bridgeport, CT

The $17.5 million L’Ambiance Plaza complex was intended to be a 16-story residential project that collapsed Apr. 23, 1987, while still under construction, according to ConnecticutHistory.org.

Workers were going to lay concrete slabs for the floors that day when seven floors collapsed inward, killing 28 construction workers and injuring 22 others.

In 1988, a $41 million settlement of legal claims was brokered with more than 100 lawyers representing the families of the victims.

Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans, LA

The Hard Rock Hotel, which was under construction in New Orleans’ French Quarter, collapsed Oct. 12, 2019, killing three construction workers and injuring 30 people, CNN reported.

The collapse has spurred multiple lawsuits and was predated by workers who posted social media videos of structural deficiencies and other problems, including bowing support beams, reported The Times-Picayune.

The rest of the building is in the process of being demolished.

Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, MO

The Hyatt Regency Hotel opened in July 1980 in Kansas City and included a multistory atrium and three suspended walkways. The walkways on the second and fourth stories collapsed July 17, 1981, killing 114 people at the hotel.

An investigation found that the original design was changed to “a double-rod system” in which one rod was used to connect the upper walkway to the ceiling and a second connected the lower and upper walkways. The load was doubled on the upper walkway, “resulting in a design capable of withstanding only an estimated 30% of the mandated minimum,” according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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