Victims and families who suffered losses in the collapse of a 12-story Florida oceanfront condominium will initially receive minimum compensation of $ 150 million, a judge said Wednesday.
That includes about $ 50 million in insurance on the Champlain Towers South building and at least $ 100 million in proceeds from the sale of the Surfside property where the structure once stood, said Miami-Dade circuit judge Michael. Hanzman at a hearing.
“The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” the judge said, adding that the group includes visitors and tenants, not just condo owners. “Their rights will be protected.
The $ 150 million does not include any proceeds from the many lawsuits already filed since the June 24 collapse, which killed at least 97 people. These lawsuits are consolidated into a single class action suit that would cover all victims and their family members if they so choose, the judge said.
“I have no doubt no stone will be overlooked,” Hanzman said of the lawsuits.
So far, 96 victims have been identified, many of them using DNA analysis. Relatives and friends of three missing people say they are awaiting news of their relatives who have been in the building, which means the overall toll could potentially reach 98. Authorities have yet to announce the end of efforts to recovery.
24-year-old Anastasia Gromova was identified on Wednesday, according to her family and police. The young Canadian had just been accepted into an English language teaching program in Japan and was visiting the condo for a final hurray with his friend Michelle Pazos. Gromova’s body was found three days ago and has been one of the last to be identified.
Her grieving family rushed from Canada after the collapse and had spent weeks in agony waiting in Miami.
“It makes it real and difficult, but on a different level. At least we can move on now. her sister Anna Gromova told The Associated Press, describing her sister as a bright star that was falling quickly. “We will remember her forever.”
Her parents said she was bright, always active, constantly smiling, and unafraid to take on tough challenges.
“It’s difficult because you knew the loss was preventable and nothing was prevented,” her sister said.
Meanwhile, the site of the tragedy has been completely cleared of debris under the watchful eye of investigators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology – the agency leading a federal investigation into the collapse, according to a financial receiver on behalf of of the co-ownership. Advice.
The rubble, considered key evidence, is stored in a warehouse in the Miami area, with the rest in vacant lots nearby, receiver attorney Michael Goldberg said. All of this will be kept as possible evidence for prosecution and for other experts to review, he said.
“It may take years for their report to become public,” Goldberg said of the NIST probe.
The building had just undergone its 40-year recertification process when it collapsed. This came three years after an engineer warned of serious structural issues requiring immediate attention. Most of the concrete repairs and other work had not yet started.
There are still differences of opinion among condo owners on what to do with the site. Some want the whole condo to be rebuilt so they can go back. Others say it should be left as a memorial to honor those who have died. A third suggestion is to combine the two.
Owner Raysa Rodriguez, whose unit is on the ninth floor, said she couldn’t imagine returning to an apartment building in a place where so many friends have died.
“Personally, I would never set foot in a building. It’s a burial place, ”Rodriguez told the judge. “I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of all those who have perished.”
Oren Cytrynbaum, an attorney who unofficially represents other co-owners, said it was important to think creatively about selling the property, including whether any requirements could be added, such as some kind of memorial for the owners. future developers.
“It shouldn’t be a traditional land sale,” Cytrynbaum said. “We are not on a path.”
Hanzman, however, said time is running out because victims and families need the money to start rebuilding their lives.
“This is not a case where we have time to let the grass grow underneath,” he said.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has donated land in his neighboring town for the construction of a Surfside Memorial.
“All options will be considered,” the judge said, adding that any memorial must be paid for with public money. “It’s going to have to be funded by the general public, not by these victims in particular. “
Associated Press editor Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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