The screams of people shouting for help can be heard in newly released body cam footage from police officers responding to the collapse of Champlain Towers South in the minutes after the Surfside, Florida, building fell to the ground.
Ninety-eight people were killed when the 12-story condominium building collapsed in the early morning of June 24. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the collapse.
The three videos released by the Town of Surfside on Tuesday show the chaos and shock as first responders and bystanders try to grasp what had just happened.
The footage begins at around 1:24 am, minutes after the collapse of the building.
The videos show Surfside Police officers arriving at the scene, speaking for the first time with survivors and witnesses, and working with other first responders to secure the area.
In one video, Officer Craig Lovellete is seen arriving at the site of the collapse at around 1:27 a.m. He walks up to other officers and asks if there was a fire.
“No,” one officer replies. “The building collapsed.”
Lovellete peeks over a concrete wall and sees the fallen garage with debris everywhere. Screaming can be heard in the background.
Back in his car, he says, “Oh my god” and sighs heavily.
Later Lovellete encounters Champlain Towers South security guard Shamoka Furman, who was in the building when it came down. Furman describes explosion-type noises she says she heard right before the collapse of the building. In another video clip, Officer Kemuel Gambirazio joins parts of the conversation.
“I hear a boom-boom but I’m thinking it’s the elevator … no beeps or nothing goes off … another boom-boom,'” Furman says. She makes hand motions to show Lovellete that after she heard the noises, the building came down.
After seeing two residents exit the building after the loud noise, Furman said she called 911.
“This never happens, I didn’t even know we had earthquakes — I don’t even know what this was,” Furman says. “I don’t even know how I made it out of there … through the grace of God.”
Asked if the building had any work done lately, Furman says she only works overnight.
Officer Ariol Lage’s body cam footage also shows him encountering Furman earlier, while she was still covered in debris.
“What collapsed?” Lage asks.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Furman says. “All I heard was boom. The garage, the pool — if they don’t get out…”
“It’s OK, fire rescue is here,” Lage replies.
Lage’s bodycam footage also shows him at the garage, which was the area of the building that collapsed first.
“There’s a lot of dust, I can barely see anything,” Lage says into his radio. He then hears a woman scream so he calls out for survivors, shining a flash light toward the noise. A woman is seen next to an overturned car, but cars and debris block Lage from getting to her.
“Are you OK?” Lage asks.
“No,” the woman replies.
Footage then shows Lage leaving the garage and making his way to a colleague, and the two walk around the building trying to determine how to get closer as screams can be heard from people in the area. It’s unclear what happened to them.
Lage and his colleagues are also seen trying to move bystanders away from the scene, fearing that the rest of the building could fall. They encounter a woman who appears to be in shock, standing in front of the building.
When told to move back, the woman replies slowly, “I’m just standing here cause I’m the building president and if you need something…”
Lage interrupts the woman and tells her the rest of the building might collapse, then ushers her away.
Another clip shows Officer Gambirazio talking with a someone who says he just made his way down from the 12th floor penthouse.
The man, who appears to be in shock and out of breath, says he was on his phone watching YouTube when he heard something falling.
He says he initially thought it wasn’t a big deal, but then “all of a sudden, I hear, like, it was a jet right through the front of my balcony. So I get up, and was like, ‘Was that a plane?'”
The video shows another person running toward Gambirazio from the direction of the collapse. The man, appearing distressed and shocked, keeps pointing and shouting toward the direction of the building.
As another officer tries to calm him down, Gambirazio tells him, “Listen, right now, we were told by Rescue not even we can help right now. … They’re coordinating something to help get everybody out.”
“Please” the man says, pointing toward the collapsed structure, but Gambirazio interrupts him and says, “I understand, but we have to do whatever they say.”
The man asks the officers if he can make a call to the building, and Gambirazio responds that he can, but adds that he can’t let him back into the area.
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