COCOA BEACH, Fla. (WESH) – When Florida residents see images of the condo collapse in Surfside, it brings back memories of a condo that collapsed in Cocoa Beach 40 years ago.
It happened in March of 1981. Eleven construction workers were killed.
People who witnessed the devastation say it still haunts them.
“And I looked up, the building was coming down like an accordion, and it just got faster and it went down,” said Kent Fey, who saw the condo collapse 40 years ago.
Fey remembers it like it was yesterday. He was a 22-year-old lifeguard at Fischer Park in Cocoa Beach.
Across the street, a five-story condo called Harbour Cay was under construction. Fey said he looked up just in time to see it fall like a deck of cards.
“It looked like a bomb went off. And there was dust everywhere, debris everywhere and the whole entire building came down, there was not a portion of it left up,” Fey said.
He said when the condo collapsed in Cocoa Beach, traffic on A1A came to a standstill with many people running to try to help. Fey was one of them.
“The first victim I saw ran across, was a guy who said he jumped out of the side when it first started coming down,” Fey said.
One man from a car repair shop used a floor jack to try to free victims from the rubble, but 11 construction workers died.
Many lessons were learned from the collapse of the condo in Cocoa Beach.
Investigators found load-bearing walls that were too thin with some parts made out of plastic. Fey finds the images coming out of Miami very disturbing.
“It still gives me goosebumps,” he said.
Fey’s experience inspired him to become an EMT. He joined Brevard County Fire Rescue and went on to make a career out of saving lives.