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Nonstop search efforts at Surfside building collapse site can take its toll on rescue workers

Several days of search and rescue are taking a mental toll on even veteran first responders.
Several days of search and rescue are taking a mental toll on even veteran first responders.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Days of search and rescue can take a mental toll on even veteran first responders.

Miami-Dade Lt. Obed Frometa, with Florida Task Force 1, also serves as a chaplain. He said he is trying to help his colleagues cope with the losses they are facing.

Local 10 News learned rescue crews tried to save a woman from the rubble in the first hours after the collapse, but she did not survive.

Frometa said situations like that 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.”

Even seeing people’s things among the rubble can trigger strong emotions.

“They have found kids’ toys. They have found car seats and strollers,” said Miami-Dade Firefighter Maggie Castro. “It just really gets you when you see little kids’ things.”

Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said the mental health of his team is paramount.

“We have clinicians on site, we have different programs that assist with the crews in their rest period, when they’re down. So that they can try to get some sense of normalcy. But it’s difficult,” he said.

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About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.