‘We Can’t Get Out’: 911 Calls Capture Chaos and Fear After Condo Collapse

Miami-Dade County authorities released recordings of nearly two dozen calls made after the South Florida building fell on June 24.


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MIAMI — The line was shaky. The man on the other end asked the 911 dispatcher again and again to repeat herself, her words drowned out by the cacophony of chaos that accompanied the collapse of Champlain Towers South. There were people who were crying. Others were screaming.

“There are people yelling, saying they’re stuck,” said the man, who told the dispatcher he was Louis Tinoco, from Unit 505. “They keep yelling.”

The call, lasting nearly 13 minutes as a dispatcher assured him she would stay on the line until he was safe, was one of nearly two dozen calls to 911 released on Wednesday from the immediate aftermath of the condo collapse on June 24. The snippets of audio — some calls from inside the building, others from anguished relatives and friends — captured the confusion and fear as more than half the building fell to the ground.

The first calls came shortly after 1 a.m., sending a stream of firefighters, police officers and emergency workers to 8777 Collins Avenue. Some of the early callers said that they thought there was a fire, or that the roof had fallen in. The reality set off an agonizing effort to try to find survivors.

“Half of the building is not there any more,” said one woman, who called to report that her sister had been inside. “They’re alive,” she told a dispatcher. “They can’t get out.”

“A bunch of us are in the garage and we can’t get out,” another caller said. The garage was filling with water, she said.

The collapse of the 13-story, 135-unit complex, each floor pancaking on top of the other, became one of the deadliest structural collapses in United States history. At least 96 people were killed and nearly a dozen others remain unaccounted for almost three weeks later.

In the initial aftermath, some residents maneuvered a perilous obstacle course of falling debris and cutoff passageways as the rest of the building teetered. Rescuers pulled a 15-year-old boy from the rubble in the hours after the collapse. But after that, no one else was found alive, even as search-and-rescue teams pressed ahead for two weeks, pelted by heavy rain as they worked.

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