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Boiler-room explosion causes injuries at Sunny Isles Beach high-rise

A view from atop the boiler room blast at the Château Beach Residences in Sunny Isles.
A view from atop the boiler room blast at the Château Beach Residences in Sunny Isles. COURTESY MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE

A penthouse boiler room blew up atop a waterfront Sunny Isles Beach condominium Friday, injuring at least six people, according to the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department, including at least one maintenance worker in the boiler room at the time of the explosion.

Other people were hurt by falling building debris from the Château Beach Residences, said Michelle Fayed, a fire rescue spokesman. The concrete flew as far as the Monaco Resort next door.

Fayed said one of the people hurt was air-lifted to Ryder Trauma Center. At least one other person was rushed to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in an ambulance. The remaining people were treated at the scene, including two firefighters who suffered “minor” injuries.

Aldo Mottolese, 26, said he was in his apartment in the building next door when he heard a loud “boom.”

“It sounded like a plane, like a plane went inside of the water,” he said. “It was pretty horrific.”

He saw the building’s concrete shatter into pieces — one falling to the left, another to the right. As the concrete hit the ground, clouds of smoke filled the sky, he said.

Aldo Mottolese, who lives next door to the Chateau Beach Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, describes the explosion. Video by Walter Michot

“Everything shook,” said Renata Reis, 38, who lives at the Sands Pointe condo about half a mile away. “I looked out the window and saw helicopters and immediately thought it was terrorism.”

Early reports suggested dozens more had been injured, but that is not the case, according to fire rescue. Reports differed as to how many of the injured were maintenance workers and how many were people outside of the building.

“The situation is under control,” Sunny Isles Beach Mayor George “Bud” Scholl said a couple of hours after the explosion. He said Florida Gov. Rick Scott had called him to offer state aid and praised local law enforcement’s response.

“This whole day has felt surreal, to be honest with you,” Scholl told the Miami Herald. “The most important thing is that we had no life-ending injuries.”

He said the small Monaco Resort was quickly evacuated after the explosion. At the time of the blast, the mayor was only about a block away, headed to lunch. He didn’t hear anything, but simply glancing down the street told him something was wrong, he said.

“I saw people holding cameras up and taking pictures,” he said. Several hours later, dozens of onlookers were still doing the same.

The Château Beach had two gaping holes outside the top-floor boiler room, along the north side of the building, and there appeared to be another one at a service elevator.

A gaggle of fire rescue trucks pulled up to the building after the 911 call came in at 11:57 a.m. Traffic was tied up for at least 15 blocks north.

Château Beach Residences is a 33-story, ultra-luxury condo tower where unit prices average $3 million. It was completed about two months ago.

Developer Manuel Grosskopf, reached on his cell phone, said that three TECO Energy workers had been performing maintenance in the roof-top boiler room when the explosion occurred.

“We don’t really know what happened,” Grosskopf said.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Miami Herald staff writer Andres Viglucci contributed to this report, as did photographer Marsha Halper.