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Teen identified after being pulled from rubble in Surfside, family confirms mother is among those dead

Jonah Handler attends Monsignor Edward Pace High School, where he plays baseball.
Jonah Handler attends Monsignor Edward Pace High School, where he plays baseball.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – A 15-year-old boy who was pulled from the rubble following Thursday morning’s partial building collapse in Surfside has been identified as Jonah Handler.

Handler is a junior varsity baseball player at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens.

He was pulled from the rubble by first responders with help from a good Samaritan, Nicholas Balboa.

Balboa said he was walking his dog when the building came crashing down and he soon heard the teen screaming for help.

“There was a bed frame and a mattress that were laying above him, so I could only assume that that was his bed, judging by the size of the mattress,” Balboa said. “You know, so he was probably just sleeping and then all of a sudden the building gave way.”

Balboa said the teen was sticking his hand up from the rubble so he was able to spot him amid the debris.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW: Good Samaritan speaks about finding teen trapped in rubble

A 15-year-old boy who was pulled from the rubble following Thursday morning’s partial building collapse in Surfside has been identified as Jonah Handler.
A 15-year-old boy who was pulled from the rubble following Thursday morning’s partial building collapse in Surfside has been identified as Jonah Handler.

“He was saying, ‘Please don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me.’ So I told him, ‘We’re right here. We won’t leave you.’ That’s when I tried to signal police officers and firefighters to get over there,” Balboa said.

Balboa said an officer was able to climb to where Handler was. He said he believed the boy told the officer that he was 10, but a family friend later confirmed to Local 10 News that Handler is 15.

Video taken from the scene shows first responders lifting Handler up and placing him on a stretcher.

Sources told Local 10 News that he was then taken to a hospital, possibly with broken bones.

“He said his mother was in the apartment with him, so I couldn’t see her or hear her, so I have no idea what her status was, but I do pray that she is alright,” Balboa said. “As for him, you know, he’s a guardian angel. That’s all I can say. Given what happened, he came out unscathed.”

The Fang and Handler family released a statement Friday confirming that the teen’s mother, Stacie Fang, was among those killed in the collapse.

“There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,” the statement read. “The members of the Fang and Handler family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy, compassion and support we have received. The many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time. On behalf of Stacie’s son, Jonah, we ask you now to please respect our privacy to grieve and to try to help each other heal.”

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed Friday that four people have been confirmed dead and 159 are unaccounted for following the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South building.

She said 127 people are accounted for.

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About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.