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Federal agency announces team to investigate Miami-area condo collapse

Mourners stop to pay respects to the missing victims at the memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church near the collapsed Champlain Towers condo in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 26 (UPI) -- The National Institute of Standards and Technology said Thursday an expert team from the agency will conduct a technical investigation into the June partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium tower near Miami.

The federal agency, which is part of the Commerce Department, has primary authority to investigate sites of building disasters, access key pieces of evidence such as records and documents and collect and preserve evidence.

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The NIST can also issue reports and make recommendations to improve building codes and standards.

"In response to the tragic events at Champlain Towers South, an accomplished team of experts has answered the call to help us determine the likely cause or causes of the partial collapse," NIST Director James Olthoff said in a statement.

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"I'm confident this team will work tirelessly to understand what happened in Surfside, Fla., and to make recommendations that will improve the safety of buildings across the United States to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again."

Nearly 100 people died June 24 when the building partially collapsed. While reports surfaced later about deficiencies in the building, the exact cause for the collapse has not yet been determined.

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Judith Mitrani-Reiser, associate chief of the Materials and Structural Systems Division in NIST's engineering laboratory, will lead the investigation.

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"This team has an incredible amount of experience in forensic engineering, having studied many building failures," Mitrani-Reiser said in a statement. "We are going into this with an open mind and will examine all hypotheses that might explain what caused this collapse."

Surfside is located about 10 miles northeast of downtown Miami.

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