SURFSIDE, Fla. – Seven-year-old Stella Cattarossi, the daughter of a 10-year veteran Miami firefighter, was at Champlain Towers South with her mother, grandparents, and aunt when the collapse of the northeastern side of the 12-story building happened last week in Surfside.
The Cattarossi family lived in apartment 501, which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. Stella shared a room with her mother Graciela Cattarossi. Her grandparents, Graciela and Gino Cattarossi, were in the other bedroom. Stella’s aunt Andrea Cattarossi was visiting from Argentina where her three sons waited for her return.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, Miami Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Zahralban and Capt. Ignatius “Iggy” Carroll, a spokesman for the department, said the team of Florida Task Force 2 Miami found her body Thursday night.
“When he was made aware that we were close to where his loved one may have been, then he stood side by side with some of his other fellow firefighters,” Carroll said. “We were able to bring her and then at least give him an opportunity to say his farewells.”
A witness said Stella’s father was with his brother, and he used his jacket to cover his daughter’s body, placed a small U.S. flag over her, and carried her out of the area. Witnesses said the Florida Task Force 2 team escorted him and a group of police officers and firefighters lined up on the roadway.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday the death toll stood at 22 and there were 126 people who remained unaccounted for. There were two other girls among the list of the dead: The Guara sisters, 4-year-old Emma and 11-year-old Lucia. Their parents, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and Marcus Joseph Guara, 52, also died. Crews recovered their bodies, police said.
Carroll said there was a powerful message for the first responders who are grieving for their colleague’s daughter: Spend quality time with loved ones.
“Tell them that you love them, that you care, because a lot of times those precious moments can be taken away from you at a moment’s notice,” Carroll said.
Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.