SURFSIDE, Fla. – Crews recovered two bodies Monday from the rubble at the scene of Thursday’s horrific condominium collapse in Surfside.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who confirmed the information at press briefings, said that one body was recovered early Monday morning while another was removed during the day.
The mayor said 11 people are now confirmed to be dead and 150 people are unaccounted for. Human remains have also been recovered at the scene over the past few days.
“These numbers are very fluid and they will change,” she told reporters.
Levine Cava expressed gratitude to the rescue crews who she said are working around the clock and risking their own lives. She said the families of those missing will continue to be the first people notified when a body is recovered or if anyone is found alive.
Miami-Dade police confirmed the identities of three victims late Monday night.
· Frank Kleiman: 55 years old; recovered 6/28/2021
· Michael David Altman; 50 years old; recovered 6/28/2021
· Christina Beatriz Elvira Oliwkowicz: 74 years old; recovered 6/27/2021
· Marcus Joseph Guara: 52 years old; recovered 6/26/2021
· 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
· Gladys Lozano, 79 years old; recovered 6/25/2021
· Manuel “Manny” LaFont, 54 years old; recovered 6/25/2021
· Stacie Dawn Fang: 54 years old; recovered 6/24/2021
· Antonio Lozano, 83 years old; recovered 6/24/2021
Levine Cava also said the Family Assistance Center, which had previously been referred to as the Family Reunification Center, would be moved due to a growing number of family members arriving to South Florida.
“It now has 14 different organizations actively working with the families,” she said. “It has been very well received and people are getting real help.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis met with a team of six scientists and engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology on Monday, who will be conducting a preliminary investigation at the site and preserving materials that could help experts understand why the building collapse.
Findings from the preliminary investigation will determine whether a full investigation or study is conducted by the NIST.
“They’ve done a handful of really thorough investigations since their creation -- 9/11, they did Joplin, Missouri, from the tornadoes, they’re doing Hurricane Marina in Puerto Rico, they did a Rhode Island nightclub fire that happened almost 20 years ago. They’ve never done just a straight building collapse that wasn’t involved with either hazards or terrorism,” the governor said.
DeSantis said the NIST’s work will be very thorough and will take a long time to complete.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose district includes Surfside, cautioned that the NIST members in South Florida are a “fact-finding” team and not a “fault-finding” team.
She said information they find could lead to changes in federal law when it comes to construction codes.
Meanwhile, there are many families that are growing more and more anxious as they wait for word about their loved ones, some of whom chose to visit the site of the collapse on Sunday.
Mendy Cohn is a chaplain who joined many of those families as they laid eyes on the rubble for the first time in-person.
“For family members, it’s a tape that is replayed every single second, and when they come to the site, it stops playing. They see it,” she said. “At this point, family members cannot start grieving. Grieving happens when there’s closure. There’s no closure now.”
Local leaders set up the trips to the site after numerous requests from families who wanted to see it for themselves.
The mayor asked those who have not yet reported their loved ones missing to police do so by going to 9301 Collins Ave. in Surfside and speaking 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.
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.
Andy Alvarez, a deputy incident commander with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday that rescuers have been able to find some voids inside the wreckage, mostly in the basement and the parking garage.
“We have over 80 rescuers at a time that are breaching the walls that collapsed in a frantic effort to try to rescue those that are still viable and to get to those voids that we typically know exist in these buildings,” Alvarez said.
The rescue teams are not only from South Florida, as crews from around the world have offered their assistance.
“Everyone is working, everyone is doing their job and we are optimistic,” said Moises Soffer, who is part of a search and rescue team from Mexico that is helping out.
Soffer’s team has performed roughly 1,000 similar missions in 26 countries.
Their tiny K-9 is specifically trained to sniff out survivors.
“He can go into creeps, into voids that a big dog could not normally go and also, because of the weight, she can go into places that have more instability that another dog could not go,” he said.
But the process is still painstakingly slow, even with a mapping system to target unchecked areas and the large 125-foot trench that was dug by rescuers that’s also 20-feet wide and 40-feet deep.
An Israeli search team is also on the ground helping Miami-Dade’s Urban Search and Rescue Team as officials explain to families of the missing that the most experienced crew is on the job.
“The commander turned and looked at everybody and said, ‘I think they’ve been doing a perfect job,’” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. “That said a lot and we already knew that. We knew that they’re there, they’re professionals, they’re world class.”
On Monday, Burkett said the town’s staff members have been directed to scan every document they have related to Champlain Towers, including archives, which will be made available for public review.
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.
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.