SURFSIDE, Fla. – In the early morning hours Thursday, immediately after Champlain Towers South collapsed, fire rescue workers heard reports of a woman alive trapped in a lower level that was now inside the garage.
One rescue worker who asked to remain anonymous tells Local 10 News: “Everybody that was there, that’s what we’re trying to do, get this lady out and comfort her. ... She was asking for help and she was pleading to be taken out of there.
“We were continuously talking to her. ... ‘Honey, we got you. We’re going to get to you.’”
But a photo he shared showed what stood in their way: A dumpster, metal rebar, and a wall of concrete.
The rescue worker says he and others first on the scene rushed into that debris before anyone even knew if the building was safe, pausing only to send a quick text to his children: “Love you guys, always.”
He says he was never able to see the woman trapped inside.
“The first thing I remember is thumping on the wall and then I remember her just talking, ‘I’m here, get me out. Get me out,’” he says.
He says crews never abandoned their effort — but he later learned the woman didn’t make it.
Local 10 News also learned of an email sent by a supervisor worried about the effects of this loss on his crews, saying they were “involved with an active conversation with the female trapped next to the bed about 10 to 11 hours after the collapse. … She was aware her parents were also trapped next to her.”
The email says a fire that broke out forced crews to move back “as we know she passed.” Chiefs on scene reported, “They saw the wind knocked out of our guys…”
Miami-Dade Lt. Obed Frometa, with Florida Task Force 1, also serves as a chaplain, helping his colleagues cope with the losses they are facing here.
He says situations like these bring “a feeling of not only defeat, but it’s a feeling of loss. We are human, after all. We’re not robots. We’re not machines. We feel it.”
Frometa adds: “We have team members that have firsthand friends that are potential victims of this, so it weighs on them and it weighs on us.”
To this point, it’s not known who that woman was or if she has been removed from the building.