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Cause of Surfside condo collapse still elusive one year later

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One year after a 12-story condominium in Surfside, Florida, collapsed to rubble, killing 98 people, the federal agency in charge of investigating has yet to determine the cause.

The big picture: There is no single, obvious trigger for the collapse, investigators have said, and conclusions could take at least another year.

State of play: So far, a team from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has cataloged evidence from the Champlain Towers South condo and will soon begin “invasive testing” of physical evidence.

Investigators will cut into steel and concrete samples, and carry out chemical and corrosion testing. They’re also interviewing surviving residents, first responders, and others.

Between the lines: Tanya Brown-Giammanco, NIST’s director of disaster and failure studies, wrote a blog post in March about why the institute’s investigations can take years to complete.

“Our engineers and scientists feel a great responsibility to get them right because this work often leads directly to changes in codes and standards that are used when constructing new buildings or renovating existing buildings,” Brown-Giammanco wrote.Those code changes could save lives, she added.

By the numbers: While the federal investigation continues at a sluggish pace, two tentative settlements were reached last month involving families of the dead and surviving condo owners.

Families, who must now file claims justifying how much their loved one’s life was worth, are poised to receive nearly $1 billion, while around $96 million will be divided among property owners.More than 130 attorneys and staff who helped work out the settlements are now requesting about $100 million in legal fees.

Plus: In May, a developer from Dubai — Hussain Sajwani of DAMAC Properties — was the sole bidder in an auction to buy the now-cleared condo site, offering roughly $120 million. Sajwani plans to build a new luxury condo there.

What they’re saying: Michael T. Fay of Avison Young’s Miami office, the real estate broker who handled the site sale, told Axios he expects it would close sometime in July.

“We’re glad to be able to bring some closure,” he said.

But families are still frustrated.

“How don’t we know what happened after a year? How don’t we know who might be liable?” Martin Langesfeld, whose sister Nicole died in the tragedy, told CBS Miami last week. “We need answers.”

What’s ahead: Surfside officials have planned a memorial at the site Friday, from 10am to noon.

🗞 This is the first article by Axios Miami’s Deirdra Funcheon. Subscribe to the Axios Miami newsletter (launching soon).