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Surfside death toll reaches 79, officials believe all victims will be recovered in next week or so

61 people potentially unaccounted for, Miami-Dade mayor says

The death toll from the Surfside condo collapse has climbed to 79, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday.
The death toll from the Surfside condo collapse has climbed to 79, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The death toll from the Surfside condo collapse has climbed to 79, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday.

That includes 14 bodies that were recovered overnight and one that was found later in the day Friday.

As of 5:30 p.m., 53 victims had been identified and the families of 51 victims had been notified. The mayor said 61 people remain potentially unaccounted for.

“They’re leaving behind devastated families,” Levine Cava said of the deceased. “The magnitude of this tragedy is growing every day.”

Deceased victims who were publicly identified by Miami-Dade police on Friday include:

  • Maria Teresa Rovirosa, 58 (recovered Wednesday)
  • Luis Lopez Moreira III, 3 (recovered Wednesday)
  • Sophia Lopez Moreira, 36 (recovered Thursday)
  • Luis Pettengill, 36 (recovered Wednesday)
  • Vishai Patel, 42 (recovered Tuesday)
  • Bhavna Patel, 36 (recovered Tuesday)
  • Deborah Berezdivin, 21 (recovered Wednesday)
  • Juan Alberto Mora, 80 (recovered Wednesday)
  • Benny Weisz, 31 (recovered Thursday)
  • Angela Velasquez, 60 (recovered Thursday)
  • Ilan Naibryf, 21 (recovered Wednesday)
  • Leidy Vanessa Luna Villalba, 23 (recovered Wednesday)

Sophia López Moreira is the sister of Paraguay’s first lady Silvana Abdo. Luis Pettengill was her husband and Luis Lopez Moreira III the youngest of their three children.

While the bodies of Vishal and Bhavna Patel, who were missing from Unit 311, have been found, crews are still searching for their 1-year-old daughter Aishani. According to family, Bhavna was pregnant.

WATCH A REPLAY OF FRIDAY’S EVENING NEWS CONFERENCE:

Officials told families that they believe they’ll be able to recover all remaining victims in the next week or so.

Friday is the second full day since the operation turned from search and rescue to search and recovery, with workers no longer detecting for signs of life.

“I see a lot of sweat. I see a lot of emotion,” Fire Marshal and state CFO Jimmy Patronis said Friday morning of the search efforts at the site. “I see the same intensity now as I saw 15 days ago.”

Illustrating their progress, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the pile of rubble that was once 4-5 stories high is now at about ground level. He said debris is being searched for personal belongings that can be preserved.

The well-being of first responders continues to be a key concern, according to the Miami-Dade mayor.

“We know in the months and years ahead they will continue as well to experience impacts from what they’ve seen and done,” she said.

At least three first responders also needed medical attention in the past 24 hours. In the grueling heat, one member of the search team was hospitalized after a cardiac incident and a dump truck ran over the foot of a Miami-Dade police officer.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said.

Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez confirmed that one of his officers had his foot run over by the dump truck while working at the scene Thursday. Ramirez said the officer was taken to the hospital and is in “good spirits.”

“He’s just frustrated he can’t be here to contribute,” Ramirez said.

Jadallah has been the one speaking with families from day one. He said this week’s update shifting to a recovery operation was hard.

“Obviously, it was extremely emotional and without going into too much detail, it was quite a few of us, including first responders, that had a hard time accepting it,” he said.

But it didn’t change much about the work being done there.

“Historically, recoveries don’t necessarily occur at night, and we made it a point to operate 24 hours a day to bring closure to the families,” Jadallah said.

About 13 million pounds of debris have been removed from the rubble so far, officials said.

While they say it is unlikely they find anyone alive at this point, some families are still holding onto hope.

“100%. Yeah, 100%,” Dr. Joshua Spiegel told Local 10 News on Thursday when asked if he remained hopeful that his mother Judy could still be alive in the rubble. “Out of all the things that have happened in the last two weeks, we are still very hopeful we can still find my mom. That’s all we really want.”

Spiegel said that at first the family was discouraged by the shift to a recovery operation, but he has seen that the work hasn’t stopped.

“They needed to make that name change in order to do a few different things, like use bigger machinery in certain areas,” Spiegel said. “To hopefully speed up this process to find more people.”

Those families had a chance to visit the collapse site Thursday afternoon and shared a moment of silence with first responders.

Officials say this is the largest emergency in Florida’s history other than a hurricane.

“Eleven seconds of devastation was all it took for a community to be shaken to its core — the kind of tragedy that tests us and shows us what we are truly made of,” Levine Cava said.

A fire official told family members at a meeting that crews “will not stop working until they’ve gotten to the bottom of the pile and recovered every single of the families’ missing loved ones,” Burkett said. He did not identify the official, but said the families were grateful.

“This is exactly the message the families wanted to hear,” Burkett said.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: SURFSIDE CONDO COLLAPSE:


About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

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.