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SURFSIDE, Fla. — The clap of thunder that shook Jonah Handler and his mother in the middle of the night last June was followed by silence.

Jonah, 15, and his mother, Stacie Fang, stepped out onto their patio and looked up, thinking the disturbing noise was coming from the roof of the 13-story Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida. But standing on the 10th floor, they couldn’t see anything wrong, so they settled in for the night.

Everything was calm. No alarm sounds. No evacuation order came. But the condo tower was about to collapse.

A year after the Champlain Towers disaster, with the cause of the collapse still under federal investigation, new documents, interviews and deposition records have shed new light on a critical seven-minute period between the roaring initial failure of a pool deck and the eventual cascading collapse of part of the building, killing 98 in one of the deadliest structural failures in US history.

The security guard in the Champlain Towers lobby quickly dialed 911 to report the initial outage. An alarm may have sounded at this time in a limited part of the building, although it was clearly inaudible to many who were still sleeping.

The building also had a sophisticated audio warning system designed to broadcast an alert to the bedrooms of each unit. But it was never triggered, according to recently available depositions and interviews, because the security guard had never been trained on the system and the single button needed to activate it.

“If I had known, I would have insisted,” security guard Shamoka Furman said in an interview.

The performance of the building’s automated fire alarm system remains one of many frustrating questions still unanswered 12 months after the collapse. With seven minutes elapsed between the moment of the pool deck failure and the catastrophic fall, could some of the residents who slept through the initial boom have gotten to safety?

In the part of the building that ultimately collapsed, nearly everyone was killed, including Jonah’s mother in Unit 1002. Jonah, pulled from the rubble, miraculously survived with 12 broken vertebrae.

He said he had never heard an alarm of any kind, and no alarm can be heard before the collapse on any of the audio and video recordings that emerged in the aftermath of the disaster.

Jonah’s father, Neil Handler, who was not in the building, said he was confident that with seven minutes’ warning, Jonah, his mother and a number of others could have escaped.

“I just think of all the lives they could have saved,” he said.

On Thursday, Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Hanzman gave his approval from the bench to a more than $1 billion settlement involving insurance companies, developers and others parties related to the Champlain Towers. Securitas, a company with a global footprint that was hired to help keep the building secure, paid the bulk of the settlement — more than $500 million.

Before the start of the emotional hearing, the judge observed a minute of silence to honor the victims. Relatives and survivors sat quietly in the courtroom, passing handkerchiefs.

Securitas said in a statement that its participation in the settlement “did not reflect responsibility for the collapse of the building or the tragic loss of life.”

Skyscrapers have different ways of notifying tenants of an emergency. Some older structures may have a basic fire alarm system that sounds through the units. Many towers built in recent decades have added loudspeakers so residents can get an audible command and description of the crisis.

In the lobby of the Champlain Towers, with its gleaming floors, recessed lights and potted plants, a security desk contained the controls for a speaker array that had been installed in each room in 2017 to ensure that residents could be awakened if an evacuation was necessary. . “All calls” commands could be issued via a microphone on the lobby control panel.

“You press a button, it would turn on all the speakers throughout the building,” Matthew Haiman, who ran the company that installed the system at the Champlain Towers, said in a deposition. “You take the mic, you say, ‘Hey, guys, there’s an emergency, get out of the building’.”

If the system had been used properly, he added, “it probably would have saved more lives to be honest with you.”

Ms Furman, who had been a Champlain Towers security guard for four months, said in an interview that she received minimal training when hired, with another security guard explaining the contours of the job as they stood for an hour in the lobby. She said she had never heard of the “All call” button. The other guard declined to comment.

André Vautrin, director of security company Securitas, said in a deposition that his company never trained Champlain Towers security guards on the operation of the sign and suggested that the condominium management association supervised the building security protocols.

A lawyer for the families of the victims, Judd G. Rosen, asked further: “Do you agree with me that a reasonable security company should train its agents in the use of a system capable of informing all the residents of an impending disaster?

“Yes,” replied Mr. Vautrin.

The loud noise that brought Jonah and Ms Fang to their balcony at the start of the disaster also awoke Paolo Longobardi on the third floor. Thunder, he thought. But his wife, Anastasiya, had heard something more disturbing: an unnatural metallic crack.

Both of them, groggy with sleep, peeked through the sliding glass door of their bedroom overlooking the pool. Below them, the pool deck was collapsing.

“It was disappearing into the ground,” Mr Longobardi said. “It was like a wave coming from right to left – south to north – and it was falling.”

Around this time, the building’s alarm system was beginning to activate, first at 1:15:29 a.m., when it reported a “problem,” according to a data log. Seventeen seconds later, a fire alarm goes off. He sent an automated alert to a surveillance company, although it’s not clear he generated an audible alarm on any floor. A short time later, a staff member from the monitoring company notified 911 that a fire alarm had gone off at the Champlain Towers.

But even when the first signals of trouble were relayed to the watchdog agency and then to authorities, few people in the building were told what was going on.

The building’s default alarm system was not designed to alert all residents. On the contrary, an alarm triggered at one floor was also supposed to trigger alarms only at the upper floor and the lower floor. It remains unclear what building alarms went off that morning, and most survivors said they heard no alarms. This included some of those who lived near the ground floor of the building, where the initial outage occurred.

As he watched the collapse of the pool deck from Unit 309, Mr Longobardi, a civil engineer who builds bridges for a living, thought a huge sinkhole could swallow the parking lot below the deck .

“We decided to run,” he said.

The Longobardis woke up their two children, aged 14 and 9, and took them outside. Mr Longobardi said one of the children remembered hearing an alarm during the escape.

In unit 111 on the first floor, the Nir family, who had not yet gone to bed, also saw trouble by the pool and ran to the lobby. Gabriel Nir said he did not recall hearing a fire alarm, but his family urged Ms. Furman, the security guard, to call 911.

Mrs. Furman dialed the number. The first call came in at 1:16:27 a.m., 41 seconds after the fire alarm went off.

“A big explosion,” she reported. No alarm could be heard in the background of the call.

Six floors up, in unit 611, Iliana Monteagudo woke up from her sleep, worried that she hadn’t closed her balcony door. Sure enough, it was open.

But as she was going to close it, she noticed that the door was stuck. No alarms were ringing in her room, but she could hear the sound of car alarms in the distance. Then she heard a cracking noise and saw a crack growing down her ceiling.

“Run,” a voice in his head told him.

Ms Monteagudo, 64, slipped out of her nightgown and put on a dress – “Don’t waste time putting on a bra,” the voice told her – and sandals. She blew out a Virgin of Guadalupe candle, grabbed her keys, purse, credit cards and pill box, and rushed for the door, careful to turn off the lights behind her.

Down the hall, Ms. Monteagudo, who had moved into the complex six months earlier, was struck by the calm. She assumed that the units around her were largely vacant. There was no alarm.

“There was a silence,” she said. “There was no movement. Nothing. I thought the building was empty.

With silence on their floor and no sign of a building in distress, Jonah and his mother headed back inside their unit. He climbed back into his bed to go back to sleep. She sat down on the edge of her bed.

A little after 1:22 a.m., nearly seven minutes after the fire alarm system went off, the collapse turned 13 floors into a pile of rubble.

Mr. Nir was in communication with 911 and ran to safety. Ms Monteagudo managed to reach a stairwell before the building collapsed around her, exiting with the help of the security guard.

But Jonah and his mother never left his room.

The floors of the Champlain towers stacked on top of each other, leaving only a few centimeters between some of them; a rescuer later told Mr. Handler that the concrete above Jonah formed an A-shaped frame over his head, which likely helped him survive. A passing man saw Jonah’s arm stick out of the rubble and his fingers wiggle. He and another passerby alerted rescuers.

The rescuer told Mr. Handler, who provided the account of Jonah’s survival for this article, that Jonah and Ms. Fang, who was 54, were found holding hands.

“When he was pulling them apart, they wouldn’t let go,” Mr. Handler said.

Mr Handler said that after that day, Jonah suffered from crippling fear when he heard sounds that reminded him of the collapse, particularly thunderstorms. Mr. Handler sometimes has to drive his son for hours until the rain stops.

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