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.
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 executivewho 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.
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.
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.