The Town of Surfside has shared body cam footage of first responders arriving at the scene of the June 24 Champlain Tower South collapse that killed nearly 100 people.
The confusion among the first responders, and the people gathered outside the building, is palpable—the combination of darkness, dust, and the shocking nature of the collapse itself making it difficult to clearly comprehend what happened that night in Florida.
The videos show the extensive response by multiple agencies. There appear to be multiple emergency dispatches, and, at times, a near-constant stream of sirens.
Throughout the videos, as officers walk around the perimeter of the buildings and what appears to be the area of the collapsed tower itself, anonymous voices can be heard crying out. Whether the people behind those voices are safe, or injured, is unclear. It’s haunting, and the sense of distress is unmistakable.
One video shows a police officer arriving on the scene and trying to assess the situation, initially thinking that only a roof had collapsed. He calls out, identifying himself as police, looking for injured people.
He eventually finds them.
“Is anybody injured?” he yells to a group of people inside what appears to be a parking structure with a collapsed floor. Cars are in disarray, some on their sides, all of them covered in dust.
“Yes!” someone yells back. “An old lady.” The officer starts to run, presumably to get help, and encounters another officer. They consider jumping over a wall but ultimately decide it’s unstable, and they don’t know what’s on the other side. Multiple people can be heard screaming in the background.
As the officer tries to find another way to access the injured people, he comes across a security guard.
“I’m with security,” the guard says. “They got to get out of there.”
“What collapsed?” the officer asks.
“I don’t know!” the guard says. “I don’t know! All I heard was ‘boom!'”
In another video, an officer talks with a man who identifies himself as a firefighter, who was in a penthouse unit in one of the towers.
“What happened?” the officer asked.
“I’m on my phone, on YouTube, and I heard something fall. Not a big deal, I thought it was something inside the apartment,” the man says, after taking a moment to catch his breath, clearly shaken. “All of a sudden I hear, like it’s like a f****ng jet, right through the front of my f****ng balcony. So I get up, and I’m like was that a f****ng plane, because planes come by here, and something tells me –”
He is then interrupted by an officer saying “half of the back is gone.”
“No, the whole f****ng back is gone,” the man says. “You need to figure out the collapse zone, you guys need to back up, because the sh*t’s going to hit the fan, that building’s an ‘L,’ the whole – this side right here, the whole f****ng thing came down.”
The officer is later told by the fire department that they need to keep people away from the buildings.
He then encounters a man who is apparently trying to communicate with his mother, who is inside one of the nearby buildings.
“We were told by rescue, not even we can help right now,” the officer tells the man. “So they’re coordinating something to get everybody out—”
“Please,” the man says, clearly worried.
“I understand,” the officer says, as the man tries to figure out a way to get his mom out of the building. “I can’t let you go in there,” he later adds.
A video also shows police evacuating people out of a nearby building. Some had armfuls of bags and luggage, while others had nothing, apparently having left so quickly that they weren’t even wearing shoes.
(Images and video courtesy Town of Surfside.)
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