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Buses take loved ones of missing Surfside residents to collapse site

Family members inside reunification center growing frustrated over lack of updates

Families get frustrated as search goes into fifth day in Surfside
Families get frustrated as search goes into fifth day in Surfside

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Dozens of frustrated and distressed family members are still waiting for updates on their missing loved ones from the Champlain Towers South condo building, but many hoping to view the site of the crumbled remains had their request granted Sunday.

Sunday morning, as search-and-rescue efforts entered day four in Surfside after Thursday’s horrible partial collapse of the building, officials met with families at a reunification center inside the Grand Beach Hotel.

Hope is waning though as authorities began asking those family members for DNA samples in order to help identify the bodies and remains pulled from the rubble. They are also asking for unique characteristics of those who are missing, such as tattoos, scars or articles of clothing they may have been wearing.

The requests have led to even more tension among the families and the officials who are providing updates, though there has been little in that area over the past day.

A heated exchange between Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez and the family members inside the reunification center was recorded by one of those inside.

“We know you’re hurting, we’re hurting as well,” Ramirez said in the video. “We want to make sure we bring closure to you. That’s what we want, and we’re working hard out there.

“Like I see that you’re hurting, our people are hurting as well. We’re standing here with you. We’re a family right now. This tragedy has put us together. Please understand that. We have to get through this together.”

Family members growing frustrated as wait for update on missing loved ones continues
Family members growing frustrated as wait for update on missing loved ones continues

Around 2 p.m. Sunday, officials started bringing some members those families inside the reunification center to a hotel next to the site of the collapse, as many had requested to see the crumbled condo.

Two busses, led by a police escort, transported family members in two different groups to the hotel. Later, a third group headed to the scene at around 5 p.m.

Once there, they were provided an open space in which they could grieve, pray or do whatever they may have wanted in that moment.

Law enforcement officers did warn those traveling to the hotel that they will be close enough to the site that they could see some disturbing images as crews continued searching through the rubble.

They told loved ones there was a chance they could see someone, or remains, being recovered.

It’s a small gesture to those who are desperate for news of any kind, with 156 people still unaccounted for, according to the last update from officials.

Throughout the afternoon, the relatives and loved ones stayed at the site, although their spirits were somber.

A lot of loved ones are going through multiple stages of grief. Many went to Shul nearby to pray.

Ultimately, slowly, many are coming to the grim realization that their loved ones may never return.

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About the Authors:

A South Florida native, Andrea Martinez joined the Local 10 News team as a reporter in April 2021.

Eden Checkol co-anchors Local 10's 10 p.m. weeknight newscast on WSFL and also reports on WPLG newscasts. She’s a Minnesota native who is thrilled to leave the snow behind and call South Florida home.