This is a developing story. At the time of publication, rescue efforts were still ongoing, and the cause of the collapse had not been confirmed. This story was updated on July 1.
Conspiracy theorists online are speculating as to the exact cause of the Champlain Towers South building collapse.
Among the speculation, some have claimed the collapse could have been triggered by U.S. Navy shock trials, which were conducted days before the building fell.
Others have tried to draw connections between John McAfee, and some have claimed the Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who live nearby, were the real targets and the Champlain Towers South building was a casualty.
Have officials identified the cause of the Surfside, Florida condo collapse?
- The Miami-Dade Police Department
- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
- Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levin Cava
- Miami-Dade Property Appraiser
- Dr. Kit Miyamoto, Global CEO of Miyamoto International, a global structural engineering and disaster-risk reduction firm
- U.S. Navy Captain Clay Doss, Navy spokesperson for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, & Acquisition
- The White House Briefing Room
No, as of July 1, officials have not identified a cause for the collapse, despite online claims that it may not have been an accident.
WHAT WE FOUND
“We need a definitive explanation for how this could have happened,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a June 25 media briefing.
A team from NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the agency that investigated the buildings that collapsed on 9/11 are conducting a preliminary investigation into what caused the Surfside collapse.
On June 28, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters President Joe Biden also believes an investigation should be launched.
“[Biden] does believe there should be an investigation and that FEMA — a number of the resources FEMA is sending to the ground — building science experts to the scene, officials from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, officials from OSHA, and the FBI — they’ve all been deployed to Surfside, under their own authorities, to help participate and provide expertise in that effort,” Psaki said.
Eighteen people were confirmed dead and more than 140 were still missing, as of Thursday, July 1. The Miami-Dade Police Department tweeted that first responders were working around the clock.
The Champlain Towers South, located on Collins Avenue in Surfside, Florida, is a 12-story condominium and can be seen via Google Maps.
VERIFY dug into several of the most prominent claims about the condo collapse circulating online.
Speculation the collapse was triggered by U.S. Navy shock trials
On June 18, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford completed the first scheduled explosive event of Full Ship Shock Trials in the Atlantic Ocean. The Navy performs these trials on new ships designed to use live explosives to confirm the warships “continue to meet demanding mission requirements under harsh conditions they might encounter in battle,” according to the Navy.
In a statement to VERIFY, Navy Captain Clay Doss, spokesperson for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, & Acquisition, said there were no indications for these trials to have caused the collapse, despite the shock trial explosions registering a 3.9 magnitude earthquake.
“The USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST) occurred approximately 100 [nautical miles] off of the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. There are no indications the tragic event in Miami is related to the test. During FSST, the Navy considers a wide variety of environmental and safety factors to protect people, vessels and wildlife in the surrounding area,” Doss said in the statement.
The trials were held an equivalent of roughly 300 miles from the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside.
Dr. Kit Miyamoto, Global CEO of Miyamoto International, a global structural engineering and disaster-risk reduction firm, told VERIFY when a building collapses it’s rarely the result of just one factor.
“There's many different factors that potentially contribute to this collapse. So the engineers have to really look at details. You know, they have to really eventually they have to get down to where the failure started,” he said.
Investigators will then be able to use a computer simulation to determine the root cause of the collapse, he said. But investigators first have to remove the debris in order to determine the root cause.
Claims Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were the real targets
Conspiracy theorists online are claiming the Champlain Towers South building collapse in Surfside, Florida, was not an accident but could have been a planned attack against Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who live nearby.
Project Camelot, a self-proclaimed whistle-blowing initiative with a history of peddling conspiracy theories, posted a Facebook post claiming the collapse was a “shot across the bow at [a] Trump comeback.” The Project Camelot Facebook page has more than 58,000 followers. A link to an associated website article is archived here.
The claims were also made across Twitter (see here and here, as examples) and this Facebook post showing a map and proximity to Trump and Kushner’s residence had more than 140 shares.
Claims the collapse was orchestrated
The Trump-connected conspiracy theory is not the only one making the rounds online. In pseudo-anonymous conspiracy groups, online users have posted the video of the condo collapse edited at different speeds, alleging the collapse was orchestrated, but there is no evidence currently the collapse was intentional in any way.
On Reddit, a post with 990 comments insinuates the collapse was one of many events taking place that buried news coverage regarding a court appearance in a defamation case between Dominion Voting Systems against several high-profile Republicans.
There has been no evidence to support the claim.
False tweets have also circulated claiming John McAfee, the creator of McAfee anti-virus software, had a unit at the collapsed condo. McAfee was found dead in his jail cell near Barcelona on June 23.
There is no record of McAfee owning property in Miami-Dade County, according to the county appraiser’s office. In searching McAfee’s Twitter account, which is still online, there is no record of a tweet from June 8. The Wayback Machine, which is used to archive web pages, has a capture of the account from June 20, which also doesn’t show any tweets on June 8.
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