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Erin Burnett Outfront
Families Giving DNA Samples of Missing; Official: "We Don't Know the Exact Number That Were in the Building"; 159 Unaccounted for in Condo Collapse; Rescuers Taking "Extreme Risk" as they Dig Through Rubble; $5M Lawsuit Filed Against Association of the Collapsed Condo Alleging Failures to "Safeguard the Lives" of Residents; Derek Chauvin Sentenced 22.5 Years for George Floyd's Murder. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 25, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thank you very much for that report. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be reporting live from Surfside, Florida beginning tomorrow as we continue our special coverage of the building collapse disaster. Until then, thanks very much for watching.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, desperate for answers. Growing questions about the fate of 159 people unaccounted for in the collapsed Florida condo building and just what caused that high-rise to literally crater in seconds. We're going to speak to family members of two people still missing.
Plus, former Officer Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for the murder of George Floyd. The Judge saying Shogun denied Floyd the 'dignity owed to all human beings'. The lawyer on the prosecution team is OUTFRONT.
And the Manhattan District Attorney informing Trump's lawyers that the Trump Organization could face criminal charges as soon as next week. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, praying for a miracle. That's what so many in Surfside, Florida and around the world are doing tonight as the search continues for survivors of that deadly residential building collapse where 159 people right now are unaccounted for. Right now, fire crews are battling heavy smoke coming from a section of the debris that you see there.
Officials are unclear how this smoke started. They say it's coming from an area that they haven't even been able to reach yet. Fires have been burning throughout the day and rescue workers are desperately trying to sift through the mountain of rubble, desperate to find human life, putting their own lives at risk in the increasingly faint hope of finding anyone else inside alive. And then there were heavy rains, so you got fires and then heavy rains
on parts of the day. That's also hurt search efforts. Overnight, three more bodies were recovered, and I do warn you that this next video is upsetting. This is the moment that one of those bodies was pulled from the rubble. It's just horrible to see. The death toll that we know now stands at four and family members tonight, though, are holding on to hope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm praying for a miracle, but clearly there's fires, clearly there's other stuff happening. And I don't know if they can get in there fast enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's been 41 and a half hours since the building collapsed. It crumbled to the ground as you see there on that surveillance video in less than 15 seconds and that happened at 1:30 in the morning. No one has been found alive since 37 people were pulled from the rubble soon after the collapse.
Tonight, we're learning the name of one of the survivors rescued from the building, 15-year-old Jonah Handler. This is the video of his miraculous rescue. According to a statement from his school, he's currently being treated at the hospital. That's a miracle and it's, of course, an incredible celebration of life saved. But we are also sadly learning tonight that Jonah's mother, Stacy Fang, did not survive. She was 54 years old.
And right now so many questions remain, the Governor of Florida making clear tonight that there are answers needed and needed fast, answers to how a building 40 years old could just collapse to the ground in 15 seconds in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We need a definitive explanation for how this could have happened and that's an explanation that needs to be an accurate explanation. It's an explanation that we don't want to get wrong, obviously. But at the same time, I do think it's important that it's timely because you have a lot of families here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And tonight, those families are searching for answers about what happened to their loved ones, as President Biden promises that the administration will also do all it can to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I'm sure I speak for all the members of the Congress here today and all the survivors here, that it's a tough, tough time. There's so many people waiting. "Are they alive? Will they be - what will happen?" And so, our heart goes out to them. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We have so much more on this massive tragedy tonight. I want to begin by going straight to the ground. Natasha Chen is OUTFRONT near the collapse in Surfside, Florida. Nick Valanecia is also near at the family reunification center. So Natasha, let me just start with you. What is the latest right now?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, what may be really disheartening for those families waiting for news is that those numbers have not changed since this morning, four dead, 159 unaccounted for. But the Chief of the Miami-Dade fire and rescue tells those families to have hope.
Overnight, there were sounds coming from the rubble, we're told. But by this afternoon's press conference, no mention of whether there have been more sounds throughout the day. The medical examiner's office said that no bodies brought to them today.
Still, we are seeing different shifts of rescue crews come past this media staging area and walking the couple blocks to the building determined to continue searching.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE (D) MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN (voice-over): But that hope is fleeting as crucial hours pass.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they are alive down there like what's going on like how buried are they in there, is there a possibility that they're alive, like truthfully look at this mess. I mean, what are the chances?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN (voice-over): Officials say about 55 of the 136 units at the 12- storey residential building in Surfside collapsed early Thursday morning, still no clue what the cause. Search and rescue crews are working around the clock using heavy machinery, sonar cameras and specially trained dogs to try to locate the missing in the rubble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you get lucky you find them in the pocket and we're able to basically by hand remove the rubble if it's not too heavy. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN (voice-over): But those efforts are being met with new challenges; fires at the collapse site as well as rising water and shifting materials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It then challenges the integrity of what's still standing there and then that delicate balance of saving lives while risking lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN (voice-over): Crews are now looking at the license plates of cars in the parking garage to try to determine who was in the building. The residents represent an international and cultural mix.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My nephew was here with a wife and three small children; two, six and nine. They had an apartment there. We never lose hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN (voice-over): Overnight, President Biden declared an emergency in Florida making federal aid available. The Feds are also sending a team of experts to study the structure which was undergoing a 40-year certification and determine whether an investigation that could impact building codes is necessary. An Attorney for the association of condo residents tell CNN an engineer had conducted inspections to determine needed repairs, but the only work that had started was on the roof.
Judy Spiegel is among the missing. Tonight, her husband, Kevin, who was out of town at the time of the collapse and their three adult children are holding out hope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to be hopeful. I want to be with her. I love her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How from one second to the next second, a dramatic change in life. It's unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN (on camera): The Chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said that initially they had hundreds of people on the team searching and now today they've been assisted by more agencies who have come to help them. He also said that it may not be clear to us on the ground or even if you look at the aerial footage what the work is exactly that they're doing underneath the rubble. And some of them are going underneath there to where the basement was trying to go up into the building that way, all the while contending with dangerous conditions like falling debris, Erin.
BURNETT: Gosh. All right. Natasha, thank you very much. And I want to go to Nick Valanecia now. He's also there in Surfside, but at the family reunification center where, of course, at this point there hasn't been, Nick, much of that. Of course, we've been waiting all day for some sort of miracles here. What have people been telling you there?
NICK VALANECIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, there's a heaviness here and the heaviness comes in waves amidst the uncertainty. People aren't getting a lot of information. And as there's a shortage of bad news, they're hoping that there's good news. But some have resigned themselves to believe that they're just really waiting to hear the worst.
And then there are some likes Soriya Cohen whose frustration is bordering on downright outrage. Her husband, Brad Cohen and her brother-in-law, Gary, were on the 11th floor she says asleep when that building collapse. She believes that those two men are still alive. She's called them tough men, but she says time is running out and she says she's embarrassed, Erin, with the recovery effort. This is the message she had for the first responders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SORIYA COHEN: You shouldn't be allocating your resources. You need to call in other teams to help you and you need to do this immediately, because every minute that goes by could be another life. And it's not just the life of the person, my children are going to be orphans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALANECIA: Her 12-year-old daughter woke up this morning unable to have breakfast, she said, because she couldn't stand to think that her dad was still somewhat somewhere buried under the rubble perhaps alive waiting to be rescued. Now, the reunification center behind me has been moved from just about a block away to this hotel to try to give them cover from those heavy bands of rain that had come through, that have been just an unwelcome stress in an already very stressful day.
Those we have spoken to who have come out have said there's about a hundred people inside. We've seen people coming and going here with their belongings. Some have been proactive, Erin, and they've gone to get mouth swabs to try to get DNA samples in the event that officials have to identify bodies pulled from the rubble, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Nick, Thank you very much.
I want to go to Debbie Hill now because her father, Richard Augustine, lives in the building. He's among the missing, the known missing now.
Debbie, I'm so sorry. I honestly, truthfully this whole story is so horrific. There are no words to describe what you are now going through. And truthfully, no one can understand it, except for someone in your shoes.
I just wanted to show a picture of your dad, so everyone knows who he is first. It zooms a happy family moments of you all together. How are you even holding up right now, Debbie?
DEBBIE HILL, DAD MISSING AFTER SURFSIDE BUILDING COLLAPSE: So it's been a really big roller coaster. Yesterday was a horrible day. Not knowing anything is the big issue.
I have a relative who's down there at the center and he gets more information off the news than he does being down there. He's been on location. He's been in the neighborhoods and stuff. And there's just no news anywhere except on like the local news channels and stuff, so it's been hard not knowing anything.
When they show the live views, you don't realize how massive this is until you see a person standing on the top of the pile. And then you realize this is going to take a long time. As much as we want those rescuers in there, it's not safe for them to be there and moving things as fast as we want them to.
So it's frustrating in that aspect that things don't move as fast as we want them to. And we want everybody to be out safe and that's just not going to happen and that's a very difficult thing to accept.
BURNETT: It is and, of course, the generosity that you have here for the first responders, they, as you know, of course they're rescuing their lives, risking their lives too. But I guess, Debbie, what I'm trying to understand is have you been able to get any information from officials or anyone? It sounds like the answer is no.
HILL: No. I registered with the phone numbers that they had provided us with. The emergency contacts and listing the missing persons because he did also have a friend in the condo with him and she is also missing. But I have not gotten anything back from them. Nobody has reached out to say, hey, how are you holding up, here's the information that we have for you.
The only information I get is from the local news station just like everybody else that's been getting it from.
BURNETT: Debbie, when did you realize that your dad was missing?
HILL: So I got a call at about five o'clock in the morning. My step brother called and said that the building had collapsed and that my dad was in it. And my dad is on one of the top floors and his was the first area that collapsed. So right away, I knew it wasn't going to be bad - I mean, going to be good, it was going to be really bad. Just by the magnitude of it all, just the way it all went down.
So, yes, it was five o'clock in the morning and I got up and I started finding me live feeds right away, trying to get as much information as I could, still obviously hoping and praying everything was going to be OK, but it's just not happening. BURNETT: No, it doesn't seem that way. But I mean, could you just tell
me a little bit about your dad?
HILL: Yes. My dad was in air freight sales most of his life. He was a general sales agent for international and domestic. So he had a lot of friends throughout the country, throughout the world. He loved what he did. He enjoyed fishing. He liked to travel. He was just getting ready to retire. He was planning on retiring in October. He was coming out here.
I was supposed to pick him up at the airport last night. He was going to come and spend the weekend with myself and my family, after just visiting my brother last week. And he was going to be training somebody that's replacing him in the fall. And then we got the phone call and everything in our world changed. It's crazy. It's just out of control.
BURNETT: It is. It's just so - I mean, I'm sure you can't stop thinking about this. But I mean the fact that that day he was going to get up and come and see you, I mean, just so close to not being there.
HILL: Right. I had just reserved his car for him and everything. I'm like, OK, I'll meet you at the airport at 10 and that morning I got a call, it's crazy.
BURNETT: Debbie, I appreciate you're talking to me. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. It's just terrific. Thank you.
HILL: I mean, just keep everybody that's down there in your thoughts and your prayers, because I'm not the only one going through it. There's a lot of people, missing people, relatives, friends. It's just horrible down there. There's no comfort down there right now for anybody. It's too much up in the air still.
BURNETT: No. And I know we're all just hoping that there will be some kind of a miracle but ...
BURNETT: All right. Debbie, thank you very much.
HILL: Thank you.
BURNETT: Just the lost here that people are facing, of course, is so monumental.
Pablo Rodriguez is back with me. If you were watching last night, you saw him. His mother and grandmother are both missing in the collapse as well. And Pablo, last night, you told me you hadn't heard much about the efforts to find the missing. You heard Debbie saying everything that they're getting is kind of from local news. Have you been updated at all about your mom or grandmother from any one official? PABLO RODRIGUEZ, HIS MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER ARE MISSING AFTER SURFSIDE
BUILDING COLLAPSE: Hi, Erin. No. What she said is completely correct. So I received a call from a reporter this morning letting me know that they were taking DNA swabs at the Surfside community center and then I heard it on the news as well. So we headed over there and the scene was a bit chaotic. There were people everywhere. It wasn't really organized.
Then, I don't think the rain helped, so they moved us to another location where it continued to be chaotic until we kept asking everyone where we can provide the DNA swab. Finally, we were able to do that. And then on the way home is when we got the first call from anybody that's official I knew. It was from the Police Department and I appreciate what they're doing and all the first responders out there I know it's difficult and it's a chaotic situation.
But as a family member, it would be nice to at least have gotten an email, a phone call, a text, anything from official sources letting us know that they're doing DNA swabs instead of having to find out from the news. And if you're not watching the news, then you don't know what's going on.
BURNETT: No. We have seen, of course, the rescue workers they're all day and night. I know at times it's 15 minute shifts, just because of the stress of the situation, the weight that they're carrying, what they're doing. I know, Pablo, of course, you got to hold out hope as long as you possibly can.
RODRIGUEZ: Right. I mean, you hold out for hope and as I mentioned, yesterday, it's not completely hopeless but after you see the video of the collapse, if you're in one of those towers, especially in the one where my mom and my grandmother were where it fell down and then the other building fell on top of it, it's extremely hard to hold out to hope. And then the delays and actually being able to get any information just makes every hour hope disappears a little more.
So at least for me, it's been hard to hold on to that hope. You pray for the miracle, but at this point you're really not expecting it.
BURNETT: No. I know. I know and I also know we talked about how your family had just been away too and your mother had just gotten back. Your grandmother was staying with her, but they just gotten back. Again, just how close it was to being a very different story for you and your grandmother's birthday was coming up and you talked about how they were going to see your son yesterday. That was the plan. I know he's six does. Have you talked about it with him at all?
RODRIGUEZ: We've talked a little bit about it. We haven't told him. We don't want to tell him the entire story until we have official news. That's part of holding on to that little bit of hope, but he knows the building fell. He saw it on the news in the morning it happened. He's already started with the questions because tomorrow is Saturday and Saturdays that's when my mom and my grandmother would come to the house with breakfast and take him to go out and spend the whole day with him. That's every Saturday since he was basically born.
So he knows tomorrow is Saturday and he's already been asking are they coming over?
BURNETT: I'm so sorry, Pablo.
RODRIGUEZ: Thanks. Yes, there's nothing really to say it's a very difficult situation. It's not just me. I know there's lots of other family members going through the same thing and really just part of the reason that I that I'm doing this, that I'm talking is to make sure that the story stays out there doesn't just get brushed aside. I know there's a lot of big events going on, the George Floyd trial, the DOJ challenging the Georgia voting law, these are all big important events. But this story, for me personally, it needs to stay out there and I'm hoping there's an investigation into it because buildings don't just fall down.
RODRIGUEZ: They were inspecting the building. There was repairs being done to the building. There were complaints about the board. There were complaints about this management and the building just fell down. How does a building that's being inspected just randomly fall down? It doesn't happen. That's not what a building does.
RODRIGUEZ: So I want to make sure that this story stays out there in the forefront and it gets investigated.
BURNETT: Well, it better be investigated and there have to be answers for everyone, every single one of you.
RODRIGUEZ: Right. Right.
BURNETT: All right. Pablo, you're in our thoughts. Thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, the first responders at extraordinary risk as they search for survivors at this hour, facing the danger of further collapse as well as fires.
You look at these images.
Plus, Pablo mentioned this, there have been complaints about all kinds of issues, complaints about water damage, cracking noises in the building. What caused a 40-year-old building just to completely fall down in 15 seconds? Structural engineer who has been hired to investigate the collapse is OUTFRONT.
And Derek Chauvin, he was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for George Floyd's murder as Floyd's family speaks out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIANNA FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD DAUGHTER: I ask about his all the time. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you see your daddy again one day, what do
you want to do when you see him?
FLOYD: I want to play with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We're continuing to follow the breaking news in Surfside, Florida. These are live pictures of fire crews fighting heavy smoke at the building site. The rescue efforts are incredibly dangerous and they are continuing. First responders just going up against everything, incredibly horrible conditions. They are desperately trying to do everything they can to find survivors, because at least 159 people were being unaccounted for.
It has been almost 42 hours since that building partially collapsed. It happened at 1:30 in the morning, killing at least four people. Out front now Sally Heyman. She is the Miami-Dade County Commissioner and she is there in Surfside.
Thank you for being with me, Commissioner.
These pictures are so horrible. I know these crews are risking their own lives. Firefighters now battling the heavy smoke from a fire that appears to be coming from somewhere in the debris. Can you tell me anything more about this fire? What could be causing it and what it's doing to the search and rescue effort?
SALLY HEYMAN, MIAMI-DADE CO. COMM.; REPRESENTS DISTRICT WHERE BUILDING COLLAPSED: Sure. Right now, Erin, we have over 300 firefighters from multiple task force on site which is in the buildings, on top of the building, under the debris and subterranean and they are battling it and made a massive task force. But what's happening is a fire in the building and the lower floor between two and three and also in the garage area is hindering their efforts to continue search, rescue and hopefully recovery.
And so they have fought with inspectors on unsafe structure status and got approval to go in and fight the fire inside the building. Get it out so they can prioritize all efforts on search and recovery.
BURNETT: Well, it doesn't, of course, surprise me or anyone listening to hear that the firefighter is doing everything they can to be approved to go in because they want to save lives. But nonetheless, it's the bravery that they're willing to take that risk on is hard to comprehend. I don't know how many would be willing to do it, so it's amazing what they're doing.
The number of unaccounted for yesterday when I was on at this time, Sally, was 99. It's now at least 159 as we found out about more people. Official say these numbers could change. What's behind the dramatic increase though?
HEYMAN: Yes, it's fluid numbers. I believe the 159 is they're deeming them missing that they could be there but maybe they weren't there. The 99 is still accurate as - I guess, you don't know if the bodies are there, but they should have been in their building. So that's where we're asking people to call in.
The 99 is a fluid number right now and if they don't come forward as survivors or announce themselves, then in all likelihood, they'll be in the rubble, so it's very disheartening.
BURNETT: It is and I know that the Miami-Dade County Mayor has said, his words, 'extraordinary risk' is what these rescue teams are taking on. It's bad weather. It's the active fires. It's falling debris. It's a building that has shown it could collapse in 15 seconds, so if you're anywhere inside, your subterranean seconds matter, yet they're in there.
We could see how precarious this effort is, because they're on piles and under. I mean, just to imagine even going in there, I think most people sort of heart pauses for a second to imagine being willing to go into that basement. Anybody seeing that video would - yes.
HEYMAN: It's incredible. Yes, absolutely incredible. We're upwind from the smoke and it's debilitating when you get to the building themselves or wearing masks and everything else. And they're literally sifting through things, hoping to find somebody alive before they shift the rubble. What's created a bigger smoke situation is moving rubble around to access pass for them to get from different parts of a building. They're tunneling through in hopes of finding people in pockets still alive and that brought forth more smoke and igniting the fire again.
BURNETT: So I know that officials today started providing briefings every four hours to families at the reunification center. I did just speak to two family members who are incredibly grateful for the bravery of the rescuers. They could not be more clear about that, but they're also incredibly frustrated because they're not getting any information. Anything they get some local news. They're not getting any updates at all.
What would you tell these families that are so desperately waiting for any update about their loved ones, their children, their parents who are trapped in there?
HEYMAN: Yes. There really isn't any update you can give them on the status of any body, literally, and so just have hope and faith. We've seen other rescues by our fabulous international Miami-Dade Fire Department all over the country, all over the world, and they pull people out hours, days, even a couple of days later in Mexico and in earthquake situations have faith.
There's pockets all through this building, and they're working to get it cleaned up enough so that they can find people and hope that they're still alive.
The community has been so compassionate. We had to shut down deliveries and donations because they've been so exceptional, worried and sympathetic to these people.
So, the community, we're with you. To everybody who is waiting to find out the news, we wait with you, also.
BURNETT: Commissioner Heyman, thank you for your time.
HEYMAN: And to our first responders --
HEYMAN: -- thank you all. We are blessed to have you and all the company that you're bringing with you as your brothers and sisters fighting for cleaning up and finding people to rescue. Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you.
Next, a lawsuit just filed against the condo association is seeking, obviously, millions, many millions I would assume in damages. Just what caused in high rise to collapse? An engineer hired to investigate is my guest.
And the ex-police officer who killed George Floyd speaking out today before going to prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEREK CHAUVIN, CONVICTED MURDERER: I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Breaking news, the first class action lawsuit filed against the association of the collapsed condo building in Florida where at least four people are dead and 159 currently unaccounted for, claiming the collapse could have been prevented, quote, through the exercise of ordinary care, safety measures and oversight, seeking damages in excess of $5 million. Frankly, that sounds that number will go a lot higher when all of this is said and done.
So, what do we know so far about the building that is only 40 years old?
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're watching what some engineers are calling a classic column failure, what they'd expect if the key support column gave way but did that happen where local officials say robust inspections are the norm?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There had not been really any concerns.
FOREMAN: Among the theories, the ground. This building was constructed 40 years ago on a spit of ocean front land, a barrier island. It's the kind of area some engineers had long said is too sandy, too close to moving water to be stable and witnesses say --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This past weekend there was some water in the garage and it was coming up.
FOREMAN: Could a sink hole be to blame? A former fire chief says they are just not common here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have sink holes in south Florida in a long, long time I can remember.
FOREMAN: A second theory, the whole building was sinking. A study from Florida International University showed a gradual sinking of the building or maybe the site in the 1990s. Experts say this is unusual and likely wouldn't have caused the collapse but could have contributed to another threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Differential supplement. If the area building settles more than others, so then the column will get, you know, pulled in. So, that can cause distress there.
FOREMAN: Pablo Rodriguez' mother is missing. He spoke to her the day before the collapse.
PABLO RODRIGUEZ: She said she woke up around 3:00, 4:00 in the morning and heard creaking noises.
FOREMAN: But experts would expect other signs, too.
KOBI KARP, MIAMI ARCHITECT: People in the building would see cracks in their floors. The table would not be flat. Things would roll off.
FOREMAN: And yet, another theory. The building itself. Humid and salty air can corrode and weaken steel and concrete. That was the cause of a partial collapse of a federal building income Miami in 1974.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen up and down the coast hundreds of buildings where you have concrete problems. It could be a building. It could be a dam or seawall. These kind of things happen if not tended to.
FOREMAN (on camera): The concrete roof is being worked on. The building was undergoing improvements as part of this 40-year renewal of its coverage there basically. On top of that, we know in 2015, there was a lawsuit and that lawsuit was about, according to a lawyer involved, water coming through a crack in the wall into a unit there. It was settled for an undisclosed sum. We don't know how much money was involved.
We do know this, though, while the hunt for survivors goes on, the search for answers does, too and could go on for a long time -- Erin.
BURNETT: Yeah. All right. Thank you very much, Tom.
I want to go now to John Pistorino because he's been hired to investigate the collapse of the Surfside condominium.
John, I know you've been the go-to engineer for major structural problems like building collapses. You wrote the inspection guidelines for buildings in Florida, so no one knows what happened or what, you know, the possibilities here better than you.
So what are you looking at?
JOHN PISTORINO, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Well, I mean, at this particular point in time it's very important not to speculate what caused this building going down. Engineers have a specific routine of how to go about doing their forensic evaluation and so that's the way it should be approached.
The 40-year inspection program that happened since 1974 was certainly intended to prevent something like this from happening, and so nothing really like this has happened until this occurred. The thing is, though, we expect building owners to maintain buildings. You don't wait 40 years and then start looking for trouble or signs. The buildings themselves are supposed to be maintained according to the way they've been built originally.
PISTORINO: So, whether or not the 40-year inspection has specific protocols, what to look for and how and how you identify issues. So on a building like this, certainly, all the history, everything has to be brought up as to what happened, what the history on the building before and then from that standard point, then at that -- then you would start basically dismantling the damaged building and putting it someplace in a yard or someplace in a field so you can evaluate each of the components until you got down to the bottom.
BURNETT: So let me -- can I ask you about the surveillance video which is all that any of us have seen. John, you look at it with a different eye, an expert eye. The collapse of the condo we see it in 15 seconds. It begins at the center. We can all see that and then it pulls down the north side of the building. So center goes down first, north side comes down.
You say that this struck you. Why is that?
PISTORINO: Well, I mean, it gives you a sequence of occurrence, so when an investigation is done on the building, it's more of a where to go to, where the focal point would be which certainly would be the center since that appears to be where the damage started to occur.
BURNETT: So, you know, obviously, it is clear something went horribly wrong here. You know, I've mentioned the lawsuit about the crack. That was settles for an undisclosed amount. You heard someone talking about there being water in the building in the garage the other day and it was rising. Pablo Rodriguez' mother was in the building.
And the day before it happened she said she hadn't been able to sleep because she was woken up by a lot of creaking and a loud bang at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Obviously, these are anecdotal things but come from different parts of the building, different people. What do you make of it all?
PISTORINO: Well, when you're evaluating a collapse like this, all that information that has to be brought in and considered you don't leave anything out in light of what actually the characteristics are. But until you get down to where it occurred, those things may make sense or not. They may be symptoms or not.
We really can't tell at this particular point, but I would say that the main thing that I would stress that we have very high standards for the design of these buildings, especially here on the ocean, we have very high standards. And I certainly want this kind of thing to make other people think there may be problems in their high rise buildings.
PISTORINO: Our buildings are very, very safe. This is an unusual unique type of situation.
BURNETT: Well, it is, but as you point, people are going to have those fears and it's understandable, right? That's why you got to get answers so people can understand exactly what happened and everybody can.
Thank you so much, John. I appreciate your time.
PISTORINO: You're quite welcome.
BURNETT: And next, 22.5 years behind bars for ex-Police Officer Derek Chauvin. So what does George Floyd's family think about that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother's neck?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, criminal charges against the Trump Organization could be days away and the man who prosecutors hope will flip on Trump, so far is not cooperating.
BURNETT: New tonight, 22.5 years, that's the prison sentence for fired police officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd's murder.
For now, he will remain in a restricted housing unit separated from others for his safety. Chauvin learning his fate after an emotional hearing where multiple members of Floyd's family asked for the maximum sentence.
Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT.
JUDGE PETER CAHILL, MINNESOTA JUDGE: State of Minnesota versus Derek Michael Chauvin.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen months to the day after murdering George Floyd, Derek Chauvin was sentenced.
CAHILL: The court commits you to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for a period of 270 months.
JIMENEZ: Twenty-two and a half years in prison after the former Minneapolis police officer was convicted on charges of second degree unintentional murder, second degree manslaughter and third degree murder. Judge Peter Cahill wrote in a sentencing memo, Mr. Chauvin rather than pursuing the MPD mission treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings, in which he certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor.
The prosecution capping off an effort more than a year in the making.
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: A police officer is not above the law and George Floyd certainly is not beneath the law.
JIMENEZ: During the sentencing hearing, the family expressed the impact George Floyd's murder had on them, including his 7-year-old daughter Gianna Floyd.
GIANNA FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S DAUGHTER: Well, I ask about him all the time.
JIMENEZ: His brothers speaking directly to Chauvin.
TERRENCE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: Why you didn't at least get up? Why you stayed there?
JIMENEZ: And making their plea to the judge.
PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: Give Officer Chauvin the maximum sentence possible.
JIMENEZ: Chauvin's mother spoke in his defense, never acknowledging the Floyd family. Instead --
CAROLYN PAWLENTY, DEREK CHAUVIN'S MOTHER: Derek, I want you to know that I've always believed in your innocence and I will never waver from that.
JIMENEZ: The court found the opposite. And for the first time, the 45- year-old former police officer addressed the Floyd family.
CHAUVIN: I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There is going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you.
JIMENEZ: Outside the courtroom, mixed feelings of celebration and wanting more.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: This is the longest sentence that a police officer has ever been sentenced to in the history of the state of Minnesota. But this should not be the exception.
JIMENEZ: It's the close of a first chapter in a story that continues long after 9 minutes and 29 seconds impacted the world and changed it as Floyd's daughter said.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could say anything to your daddy right now, what would it be?
GIANNA FLOYD: It would be I miss you and I love you.
JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, we're not sure what Chauvin meant when he said there would be upcoming information that would be of interest but for now, the sentence is 22.5 years. Though, he could serve 15 since here in Minnesota, you serve the first two-thirds of your sentence in prison and then become eligible for supervised release.
He's still also got two federal trials coming up that could add more years to that and then his request for a new trial was denied just before sentencing. So all he's got left at this point on this case is 90 days to appeal and we'll wait to see if that happens -- Erin.
BURNETT: Omar, thank you very much.
I want to go to now Steve Schleicher. He was one of the prosecutors in the case.
And, Steve, I know you'd asked the judge to sentence Derek Chauvin to 30 years behind bars to account for the profound impact of the defendant's conduct in your words. Floyd's family asked for the maximum which would be 40 years and Chauvin gets 22.5, obviously per parole eligible in 15.
Are you satisfied with what happened today?
STEVE SCHLEICHER, SPECIAL ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEREK CHAUVIN CASE: We are, Erin. I think that, you know, as a practical matter, there is no number that is going to in any way adequately reflect the enormity of what was lost, what happened to the world, what we all experienced, and the lost felt by the Floyd family.
[19:50:01] We asked for 30 years, because we believed that was a fair sentence and it was legally supported, but 22.5 years is a long time. It's a substantial prison sentence and it's the beginning of accountability here.
BURNETT: So, Steve, you know, talking to our legal analyst, Elie Honig, you know, he noted, it's really rare for defendants who are convicted at trial to speak at sentencing, because of appeals. You're going to appeal your conviction and their whole defense would make it impossible to say words like, I'm sorry, or, you know, so usually you don't speak, but Chauvin did speak. First time we'd heard him or seen him not have that mask on, at least us, the public.
I want to replay some of what he said, Steve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAUVIN: I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There's going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest and I hope things will give you some peace of mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Steve, when he said there's other information in the future that will give you some peace of mind, I guess I have two questions for you. One, what did you think at the moment when he spoke, were you surprised yourself? And two, do you know what he was talking about?
SCHLEICHER: I'll answer the second question first. I don't know what he was talking about and he'll have to speak to his own, what he meant by that.
The first question, was I surprised that he spoke? I was. With the pending federal charges and the pending appeal, I really didn't expect him to say anything. That said, offering condolences to the Floyd family, I think, is an important statement. It's an important first step in him coming to grips really with the magnitude of the damage that he's caused, both to the Floyd family and to policing in general.
BURNETT: There were emotional moments from the Floyd family today. Of course, you know, watching his daughter, of course, that's hard for anyone to see. We just saw a few of them. Here's more of what we heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIANNA FLOYD: I ask about him all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you see your daddy again one day, what do you want to do when you see him?
GIANNA FLOYD: I want to play with him.
T. FLOYD: I want you to know, from the man himself, why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head -- when you had your knee on my brother's neck? P. FLOYD: My family and I have been given a life sentence. We will
never be able to get George back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Steve, what do you think this sentence means for the other three officers, who have yet to stand trial in Floyd's death?
SCHLEICHER: Well, of course, those other cases are pending, and I can't comment on them. What I can say the sentence means generally, it sends a strong message that this is a matter that people better pay attention to. I think that in terms of policing and future policing, a sentence of over two decades, holding an officer criminally, individually accountable for their conduct is something that will make other officers pay attention.
And it's my hope and it's my belief that it will lead to a culture of intervention, that when other officers see something like this unfolding on the street, they'll be less likely to not act, to not stop the conduct.
BURNETT: All right, Steve. I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SCHLEICHER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, prosecutors closing in on the Trump Organization, charges possibly coming as early as next week. Trump's lawyer responds.
BURNETT: Breaking news: a major development in the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into the Trump Organization. The D.A. office telling Donald Trump's attorneys that criminal charges could be filed against Trump Organization as soon as next week. The charges are believed to be tied to allegations of tax evasion over compensation paid to top executives.
OUTFRONT now, Kara Scannell, who is following a number of developments on this front tonight.
And breaking news, Kara, so what are you learning about possible criminal charges?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Erin, these charges against the Trump Organization and the chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, could come as soon as next week, and sources tell us that this has to do with failure to pay taxes on benefits that the company paid out to certain executives, including Weisselberg. Those types of benefits would be rent-free apartments, company cars, and for Weisselberg, even school tuition paid for his grandchildren.
Now, sources tell me that Weisselberg's lawyers recently informed prosecutors that he would not be cooperating with the investigation and a lawyer for Donald Trump, Ron Fischetti, tells me that upon learning that Weisselberg was not going to cooperate, he reached out to prosecutors. He said that they met yesterday for sometime, he tried to persuade him it was not worth bringing charges, because these types of cases are not brought.
So, what Fischetti told me was it's outrageous, it's unprecedented, it's never happened before, it's done just to get Donald Trump.
And Fischetti says that, you know, this prospect of charges against the Trump Organization angers the former president, but he also tells me that during this meeting, prosecutors gave him no indication that any charges right now would be against the former president or his family.
Of course, Erin, this is an investigation still active and ongoing, but that is what he's saying he was told, at least as of now.
BURNETT: All right. Kara, thank you very much.
I want to go to Elie Honig, our senior legal analyst, former assistant attorney for the southern district of New York as well.
So, Elie, what do you make of this. I mean, the whole -- if there are charges, all of this would be done to pressure Weisselberg to give them more. So I guess it's how much prison time he's looking at. Would he flip? What does this mean for former President Trump?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Erin, first of all. With regard to potential charges against the Trump Organization, that could mean the death knell for the Trump Organization as a corporate entity. The penalties you can get are fines, restitution, even dissolution, meaning the end of the company.
However, nobody goes to prison based on a corporate charge. That is legally impossible. The only way anybody goes to jail if they are individually charged, individually convicted. So, that's why good prosecutors never settle for only charges against a corporate entity. You want to hold the vigilance as well, too, because people need to be held accountable.
BURNETT: And that's where Allen Weisselberg comes in. What do you make about what they're saying, though? They're saying that no one would ever bring charges like this. That this just isn't done and it's all just to get to Trump. What's your response to that?
HONIG: It is unusual to charge a corporate entity based on tax fraud relating to fringe benefits. Usually when you see a corporation charged, it's because they've been ripping off their customers or perhaps engaged in large-scale money laundering for some of other, drug trafficking or other illegal organizations. So there is some merit to that point. It is fairly unusual to see a corporation charged on these bases.
BURNETT: And what do you make of the fact that the timeline here, it seems to be accelerated, accelerated, accelerated. And I know you've pointed out, they want to move forward, because you have statutes of limitations. But it does seem to be quite accelerated.
HONIG: Yeah, they have to move, though, Erin. They are really under the gun. They have the statue of limitations ticking. They've got Cy Vance's days numbered. And this investigation is complicated.
They have to move forward. They've been stuck spinning their wheels for several years now. It's pay dirt time.
BURNETT: All right. Elie, thank you very much. I appreciate your perspective.
HONIG: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Elie Honig, as I said, familiar with the Southern District of New York.
All right. And thanks so much for joining us. Please continue to watch our breaking coverage of the tragic story of the first responders desperately trying to find life at that condo in Surfside, Florida.
Right now, let's hand it off to "AC360."