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Surfside collapse: College students in love found dead as death toll reaches 79

62 remain unaccounted for, Miami-Dade detectives say

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The official death toll of the Surfside building collapse neared 80 on Saturday morning. Families were grieving children, young couples with dreams, and beloved parents and grandparents.

Miami-Dade detectives released the identities of four more victims late Friday night. The bodies of Benny Weisz, 31, and Angela Velasquez, 60, were recovered Thursday; Ilan Naibryf, 21, and Leidy Luna Villalba, 23, were among the 12 that crews recovered Wednesday.

Naibryf, who was born in Argentina and used to live in Hawaii, was in love with Deborah Berezdivin, a graduate student at George Washington University, friends said. He followed her to Surfside to support her during the funeral of a COVID-19 victim. Crews also found her body Wednesday.

Search crews found the lifeless bodies of Ilan Naibryf and Deborah Berezdivin Wednesday in Surfside. The couple died in the June 24th building collapse. (WPLG)

Berezdivin, who was born in Puerto Rico, was an aspiring architect. She had already graduated from Tulane University. Naibryf, a student at the University of Chicago, was a physics major. He was working on a minor in molecular engineering and was planning to graduate in 2022.

“He also was co-founder and CEO of STIX Financial, a 2021 College New Venture Challenge finalist, served as president of the Chabad House student board, was a former member of the men’s track and field team, and was active in recreational soccer. He will be greatly missed,” a university spokesperson wrote. “We recognize the grief Ilan’s passing brings to our community. Ilan was a valued student and friend.”

Families were grieving for two other couples.

Weisz, who was born in Austria, and his wife, Malki Weisz, 27, were visiting her father, Harold Rosenberg, 52. The couple lived in Lakewood, New Jersey. Crews also found Rosenberg dead on Wednesday. The family was waiting on updates on Malki Weisz.

Velasquez, who was born in Colombia, was a Weston Town Center shop owner. She lived with her husband, Julio Velasquez, 67, and their 36-year-old daughter, Theresa Velasquez, a Live Nation executive who was visiting them from Los Angeles.

Malki Weisz, Julio Velasquez, and Theresa Velasquez are among the 62 people who have been unaccounted for since June 24th.

FILE - In this June 24, 2021, file photo, rescue workers remove a body from the rubble where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed in the Surfside area of Miami. Search and rescue teams from Miami-Dade have been described as among the best and most experienced in the world. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Before sunrise, determined crews continued searching for bodies or human remains trapped in the ruins of the former 12-story Champlain Towers South at 8777 Collins Ave.

The early morning collapse of the L-shaped condominium building’s northeast sections left a mountain of compact pancaked concrete. Fire Rescue personnel evacuated the survivors who were in the southern part of the oceanside building.

Terror, anguish, and grief surrounded the area. Hope fueled the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department to summon the eight Florida Task Forces. Crews from as far as Virginia and New Jersey arrived to help. There were teams from Israel and Mexico.

There were intermittent storms and spontaneous fires as teams of 10 to 12 tunneled through the destruction day and night. There were heartbreaking long days full of sweat and tears when crews were only able to find one or two bodies.

The work didn’t stop. With the help of heavy equipment, crews were able to remove about 14,000 tons of concrete and metal. Workers delivered it to a field in Golden Glades. But with the threat of debris falling from above, engineers decided to stop the mission. It all came to a halt about 2:11 a.m. and resumed at 4:45 p.m.

President Joe Biden met with relatives, officials, and rescuers in Surfside. And when the mission resumed, Tropical Storm Elsa threatened the area. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava ordered the demolition of what was left standing and it all imploded on the evening of the Fourth of July.

A cloud of dust grows over the site after demolition teams brought down the unstable remainder of the Champlain Towers South condo building, at left, Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. The work to demolish the remains had suspended the search-and-rescue mission, but officials said Sunday it should eventually open up new areas for rescue teams to explore. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The search-and-rescue mission ended on Wednesday. The crews stood around the rubble in a solemn moment of silence and prayer. They had found entire families dead. They had seen a Miami firefighter carry his dead daughter after Florida Task Force 2 Miami recovered her body.

Their commitment hasn’t faltered.

COMPLETE COVERAGE

Surfside building collapse

The timeline of a tragedy

Coverage of July 9

Coverage of July 8

Coverage of July 7

The search-and-rescue operation at Champlain Towers South shifted to a search-and-recovery mission Wednesday in Surfside.

Coverage of July 6

Workers walk past the collapsed and demolished Champlain Towers South condominium building, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage of July 5

Rescue workers handle a tarp containing recovered remains at the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building, Monday, July 5, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. The remaining structure was demolished Sunday, which partially collapsed June 24. Many people remain unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on July 4

FILE - In this late Sunday, July 4, 2021, file photo, the remaining structure of the Champlain Towers South condo building is demolished more than a week after it partially collapsed, in Surfside, Fla. Even as the search continues over a week later for signs of life in the mangled debris, the process of seeking answers about why it happened and who is to blame is already underway in Florida's legal system. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on July 3

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and his wife Casey leave flags at a makeshift memorial near the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of victims remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on July 2

FILE - In this Friday, July 2, 2021, file photo, search and rescue personnel remove remains on a stretcher as they work atop the rubble of the Champlain Tower South complex in Surfside, Fla. Nobody has been found alive since the first hours of the June 24 disaster that killed at least 27 people in the town of Surfside, so updating the families has so far been a matter of delivering bad news. And what crews are finding is often not intact. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Coverage on July 1

FILE - In this July 1, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit the Surfside Wall of Hope & Memorial in Surfside, Fla., for the people missing after the condo tower that collapsed earlier in the week. The Bidens spent the day meeting with first responders, local and government officials and visiting with families who have been impacted by the collapse. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 30

Search and rescue personnel work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of people remain missing almost a week after it partially collapsed, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Coverage on June 29

Search and rescue workers comb the rubble of an oceanfront condo building that collapsed, with many dead and unaccounted for, in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 28

FILE - In this June 28, 2021, file photo, workers search the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Fla. Search and rescue teams from Miami-Dade have been described as among the best and most experienced in the world. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 27

This aerial image shows an oceanfront condo building that partially collapsed three days earlier, resulting in fatalities and many people still unaccounted for, in Surfside, Fla., Sunday, June 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 26

FILE - In this Saturday, June 26, 2021, file photo, rescue workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, in Surfside, Fla. Even as the search continues over a week later for signs of life in the mangled debris of the fallen Champlain Towers South, the process of seeking answers about why it happened and who is to blame is already underway in Florida's legal system. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 25

FILE - In this Friday, June 25, 2021, file photo, rescue personnel work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, in Surfside, Fla. Even as the search continues over a week later for signs of life in the mangled debris of the fallen Champlain Towers South, the process of seeking answers about why it happened and who is to blame is already underway in Florida's legal system. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 24

This photo taken from video provided by ReliableNewsMedia firefighters rescue a survivor from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., early Thursday, June 24, 2021. (ReliableNewsMedia via AP).

About the Authors:

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.