Florida tower was likely doomed from the start by sketchy building team: engineering expert
Part of the Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside, Florida as residents slept in the early hours of June 24, 2021(AFP)

Florida's Champlain Towers South was likely doomed from the start by faulty design and poor construction, according to a new investigative report.

The root cause of the Surfside tower collapse that killed 98 people on June 24 remains unknown, but engineers who reviewed building plans and photos of the debris agreed the problems likely were present from the beginning, and the Miami Herald took a deep dive into the backgrounds of those responsible for its construction.

"It's just surprising that a contractor of that caliber would have been working on Champlain Towers South," said Abieyuwa Aghayere, professor of structural engineering at Drexel University, of the project's scandal-plagued general contractor.

Alfred Weisbrod, whose career was marked by complaints of "negligence," "incompetency or misconduct," was the second of three general contractors to oversee the construction, which took place between November 1979 and October 1980.

"When you bring in a contractor mid-stream because of a dispute or something, that to me always spells trouble," Aghayere said. "If you don't have continuity, the [new] contractor may not have time to go back and look at how this building was built from the bottom level up."

Weisbrod, who is now deceased, was fined three times and threatened with suspension during the 1980s and early 1990s, and eventually surrendered his general contractor license in 1998 to avoid further trouble for various allegations, including mismanagement, incompetence and fraud.

The developer was sued dozens of times between 1981 and 2000, with judgments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he spent much of those years in financial distress and racked up tax debts of nearly $400,000 by the mid-1980s.