SURFSIDE, Fla. – Search-and-rescue operations continued in Surfside for a fourth day Sunday as family and friends continue to cling to hope that their missing loved ones will be located.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed Sunday morning that the death toll had risen to nine.
During a news conference Sunday evening, she confirmed that the death toll remains at nine, but said an additional four bodies that had been pulled from the rubble have now been identified.
However, at around 9:30 p.m., Miami-Dade Police released an update, which included the names and ages of four additional victims:
The four additional victims recovered and identified are below:
- Leon Oliwkowicz: 80 years old; recovered 6/26/2021
- Luis Bermudez: 26 years old; recovered 6/26/2021
- Anna Ortiz: 46 years old; recovered 6/26/2021
- Christina Beatriz Elvira: 74 years old; recovered 6/27/2021
That means only one of the victims have yet to be identified. The mayor said 134 people are accounted for and 152 are unaccounted for.
Additional human remains were also recovered overnight, Levine Cava said.
After a couple of rainy days, the weather finally cleared up Sunday to make the search and rescue operation just a little bit easier.
The mayor said crews are using K-9s and all of the technology and machinery available to us.
She said families of the victims pulled from the rubble and of those who are still missing were given the opportunity to visit the scene of the collapse, as many had been asked to be able to do.
“I think that it turned out very well and that they were very grateful,” she said.
Levine Cava asked that those who have not reported their loved ones missing to police do so by going to 9301 Collins Ave. in Surfside and speak with a detective.
She said the site is open 24 hours a day and DNA swabs are being taken at that location in hopes of identifying the victims.
One of the deceased victims was rescued from the rubble Thursday morning but died on the way to the hospital.
State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis provided an update to Local 10 News’ Annaliese Garcia as dozens of rescue workers continue working above and below ground.
“The fires definitely complicate things,” Patronis said. “The trenching that has been taking place has been in essence to help that.”
That trench, which was built underneath the rubble, is 125 feet long, 20 feet wide and 40 feet deep, and according to Patronis, it serves a multitude of purposes.
“It’s almost like a firebreak, a way to try to contain the fire,” he said. “But add access also for those men and women that are doing the urban search and rescue.”
Levine Cava said it was because of this trench that workers were able to recover more of the victims.
Saturday night the Miami-Dade Police Department released the identities of four of the nine people who officials confirmed have died after the building collapse.
Stacie Dawn Fang was the first victim to be identified. The 54-year-old mother lived in apartment 1002. Search-and-rescue personnel pulled her out of the rubble early Thursday morning, but she died on the way to Aventura Hospital & Medical Center.
Fang’s 15-year-old son Jonah Handler survived. Rescuers pulled him out of the rubble early Thursday morning after a neighbor heard him screaming and saw his hand extended out of a rift.
Manuel “Manny” LaFont was a 54-year-old father of two who lived in apartment 801. Search-and-rescue personnel recovered his body on Friday.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan R. Cominsky said the search-and-rescue effort includes robots, dogs, drones, sonar technology, cameras, and numerous teams who are taking turns to explore different sections of the pancaked concrete.
Groups of 10 to 12 rescuers tunneled through the debris by making cuts and breaches. They evacuated when a fire burned beneath the rubble, but hours later Levine Cava said the fire was under control. The thick smoke was gone.
Paramedic Maggie Castro, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said engineers were helping the search-and-rescue teams at the site with reports on structural stability.
“The dawn has come bright, the rain has stopped and I’m hopeful this will be the day we have a breakthrough,” Levine Cava said. “It really an amazing operation. My heart is with these people. They care so much. They’ve dedicated their lives. They’re totally passionate about finding people.
Fire Rescue personnel used heavy machinery to slowly clear away superficial metal and other unstable debris from above that could potentially fall and hurt rescuers. Teams of highly trained dogs were sniffing regularly.
Sen. Marco Rubio said he was praying for miracles and he felt grateful for the national and international assistance. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue had assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and elite teams from Mexico and Israel.
“We have been fighting the elements. We have been fighting the fire ... the objective here is to bring these people out of that rubble and supporting the families,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.
Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, the acting consul general of Israel in Miami, and other diplomats were offering their support to several families. The Jewish community was highly represented. Officials reported Argentinians, Colombians, Paraguayans, Uruguayans, and a Chilean remained unaccounted for.
Relatives continued to deliver flowers to a makeshift memorial near the site and there were several prayer vigils including one at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Miami Beach.
Champlain Towers South is one of a condominium complex of three buildings. There is also Champlain Towers East and Champlain Towers North. Some of the residents of this building are asking officials to do more to prevent another tragedy at one of the two remaining buildings.
The fear has prompted several families to evacuate until town officials conduct inspections and figure out what went wrong with Champlain Towers South.
Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that answering those questions will take time.
Family reunification center
The town is hosting those who are waiting for information about unaccounted relatives at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside, at 9449 Collins Ave. Levine Cava said there are two daily briefings for relatives.
For information or to report the status of a loved one who is unaccounted for, call 305-614-1819 or 305-993-1071.
Coverage on Saturday
Coverage on Friday
Coverage on Thursday