The first victim of the Miami condo tower disaster has been identified as the mother of a 15-year-old boy who was dramatically rescued from the rubble with the help of a passing dog walker.
Stacie Fang, 54, died Thursday when the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, near Miami Beach, suddenly collapsed around 1:30am that morning.
The New York native was pulled from the debris and rushed to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, but died of her injuries soon after.
Fang’s son Jonah Handler survived the tragedy after being trapped under the frame of his bed.
He was seen being pulled from the wreckage by first responders along with the help of man who was walking his dog past the scene when the building came down.
Fang is one of four people so far killed in the tragedy, as rescue teams continue to comb the scene for survivors and at least 159 people are still missing more than 36 hours on.
Her family released a statement paying tribute to her on Friday afternoon.
‘There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie. The members of the Fang and Handler family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy, compassion and support we have received,’ the statement said.
‘The many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time. On behalf of Stacie’s son, Jonah, we ask you now to please respect our privacy to grieve and to try to help each other heal.’
Pictures of Fang and her son hugging and enjoying a day at the beach were revealed by news station WPLG 10.
Pictures of Fang and her son hugging and enjoying a day at the beach were revealed by news station WPLG 10
Her family released a statement paying tribute to her on Friday afternoon saying: ‘There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie’
The first victim of the Miami condo tower disaster has been identified as the mother of 15-year-old Jonah Handler (above) who was dramatically rescued from the rubble with the help of a passing dog walker
Officials had confirmed the death of a woman Thursday before recovering three more bodies from the scene overnight.
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that Fang died at 3:38am Thursday, just hours after the 12-story building was reduced to rubble.
The family of the mother and son had spent the last day desperately searching for answers as to her whereabouts.
Fang’s sister Virginia Borges told the Washington Post Thursday the teen had been asking for his mother while he recovered in hospital.
‘He was rescued, but he has no idea what happened to his mother. Nobody has any idea what happened to her. It’s like she just disappeared,’ she said.
‘He wants to know what happened to his mother. We all want to know.’
Borges had joined the family members of dozens of other missing people at the Surfside community center that day anxiously awaiting news.
Video from the scene showed Jonah Handler being rescued by fire crews after the Champlain Towers South beachfront building collapsed at about 1.30am on Thursday
Jonah, 15, was carried out of the rubble by multiple first responders. His mother Stacie Fang, 54, died Thursday in the tragedy
The tragic news came Friday afternoon as:
- Rescue teams dug through the rubble with their hands and heavy machinery in the hunt for survivors
- 159 people are unaccounted for 36 hours on from the collapse including the first cousin of the former president of Chile and the president of Paraguay’s sister-in-law
- Sources told DailyMail.com many people in the building were tourists from Latin America renting apartments while they traveled to the US to get COVID-19 vaccines
- Distraught family members handed over DNA samples and gave details of distinguishing features of loved ones in an effort to help identify any victims or survivors found
- President Biden said Friday he had spoken with Governor Ron DeSantis and said the federal government had sent ‘the best people from FEMA down there’
- DeSantis vowed to ‘get the answer’ for what happened, saying people need a ‘definitive explanation’
- Biden declared a state of emergency in Florida in the early hours of Friday sending in federal support
- It was revealed that scientists had warned last year that the condo development was sinking at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s
- The building was also due to have its safety recertified for the first time in 40 years this year and had recently undergone construction work on its roof
Dramatic footage captured the moment Jonah was rescued from the collapse site in the early hours of Thursday morning, as the teenager stuck his hand up through the rubble to attract the attention of rescue teams.
Nicholas Balboa, who was walking his dog nearby at the time the building collapsed, told Local10 he spotted the boy among the remains of what appeared to be his bed.
‘There was a bed frame and a mattress that were laying above him, so I could only assume that that was his bed, judging by the size of the mattress,’ Balboa said.
‘You know, so he was probably just sleeping and then all of a sudden the building gave way.
‘He was saying, ‘Please don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me.’ So I told him, ‘We’re right here. We won’t leave you.’ That’s when I tried to signal police officers and firefighters to get over there,’ Balboa said.
Video showed the boy being carried out by firefighters on a stretcher.
Jonah, a 10th grader at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, was then taken to hospital with broken bones.
Three more bodies were pulled from the rubble of the collapsed 12-story Miami condo tower (an aerial view of the disaster) pushing the death toll up to four while officials revealed 159 people are still missing
Rescue crews comb through the rubble of what remains of the oceanfront condo building in Surfside, near Miami Beach
Ariel images show rescue crews in Surfside, near Miami Beach, combing through tons of rubble for anyone who may have survived the collapse of part of an oceanfront residential tower
Rescue teams have been working round the clock since the collapse of the 12-story condo building Thursday morning
Personal belongings and pieces of furniture can be seen inside the partially collapsed building Friday morning
People hug as they wait for news about relatives at the community center in Surfside, with 159 people still missing
Rescue teams continue to search the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Florida
Rescue teams comb through the rubble as 159 remain missing
The death toll climbed to four Friday morning as Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said three more bodies were pulled from the rubble overnight.
Officials said they had managed to identify three of the four victims by late Friday morning but only Fang was publicly named.
Now, almost 36 hours on from the collapse, at least 37 people have been rescued from the rubble or parts of the damaged building still standing, with 11 injured and four hospitalized.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said a total of 120 people have now been accounted for ‘which is very, very good news’ but revealed the number of people still missing has climbed to 159 – a number she warned was ‘very fluid.’
Officials had initially said 99 people were unaccounted for following the building’s collapse. But, with the tower housing a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, authorities were unsure exactly how many people were inside at the time.
A total of 55 condos collapsed on Thursday – more than a third of the 136 within the building. Around 80 percent of the building was reportedly occupied.
Officials said Thursday they believed the building had been ‘substantially full’ and pleaded to the public for information about anyone who may have been inside.
Sources close to the investigation told DailyMail.com most of the people in the building were tourists from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia and had traveled to the US to get COVID-19 vaccines which are difficult to get in their respective countries.
At least 31 Latin American citizens are currently unaccounted for – including nine Argentinians, six people each from Paraguay, Columbia and Venezuela, three from Uruguay and one Chilean – but, sources said many people are thought to have been renting the condos as Airbnbs, meaning it may be difficult to identify all the victims.
Among those known to be missing are the first cousin of the former president of Chile and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the president of Paraguay’s sister-in-law and her family, and a celebrity plastic surgeon.
Three more bodies have been pulled from the rubble of the collapsed 12-story Miami condo tower pushing the death toll up to four while officials revealed 159 people are still missing
Heavy machinery was also drafted in to Miami to help in the search Friday – more than 24 hours on from the disaster
Firefighters and rescue teams were on the scene, now with the help of federal assistance, as the search continued
Firefighters and rescue crews carefully combed through the rubble with their hands as they continued to search for survivors
The part of the condo tower still standing is seen as heavy machinery and search and rescue crews hunt for survivors
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed Friday that rescue teams had recovered the bodies of three more victims overnight
Hero mom saves daughter, 16, in condo collapse despite suffering a broken pelvis when they plunged four floors – but husband remains among the missing
A hero mom saved her 16-year-old daughter’s life by dragging them both from the rubble to safety, despite having suffered a broken pelvis in the Miami condo collapse.
Angela Gonzalez and daughter Devon plunged four stories from the ninth floor to the fifth floor when the 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo collapsed in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Angelo broke her pelvis in the fall but managed to pull herself and Devon from the rubble, reported CBS Local.
The mother and daughter are now recovering in Jackson Memorial Hospital.
However, Angela’s husband and Devon’s dad Edgar Gonzalez remains among the 159 people still missing, around 36 hours on from the disaster.
A family friend told CBS Local said they were hoping for the best that he would be found alive.
‘Hope for the best. Everybody just give prayers. Everybody else’s families or any colleagues or friends that were in the incidents, I wish you prayers, thoughts… And I hope everybody gets well,’ Lisa Melencial said from the hospital.
She added: ‘Pick up the pieces, trying to figure out how to make this work, how to make this better than what it is… Even though it’s a tragic scenario. I just want prayers and just the best for her and her family.’
Devon Gonzalez, 16, was pulled from the rubble by her mom
Paraguay’s First Lady Silvana López Moreira arrived into Florida Thursday as her sister Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill, and their three young children remained missing more than 24 hours on from the disaster. The family were said to be celebrating Luis’ birthday after they traveled to the US for their COVID-19 vaccines.
Miami Beach State Senator Jason Pizzo told the Miami Herald he had seen one body removed from the collapse site in a yellow body bag overnight Thursday and another that was marked.
Desperate family members gathered had handed over DNA swabs to help with the identification of the victims so far found and are being asked to detail any distinguishing features such as tattoos, scars and dental work as they anxiously wait at the nearby reunification center for news about their loved ones.
Cava said in a Friday morning press conference it had been a ‘tragic night’ but she remained ‘very hopeful’ that more survivors will be found and insisted it was still a rescue – rather than a recovery – mission at this time.
‘We still have hope that we will find people alive,’ she said.
Rescue teams were seen digging through the rubble using both heavy machinery and their hands Friday morning as they held out hope that more survivors would found.
They had worked through the night using dogs, sonar and heavy machinery to search for signs of life as they battled with fires reigniting in the rubble.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Ray Jadallah said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams had arrived on the scene overnight following the president’s emergency declaration and were assisting the 130 firefighters already on the ground.
Jadallah said a fire reignited in the building overnight but ‘it did not slow down our search and rescue operation.’
Sounds were heard coming from the rubble, he said, fueling hope more people will be found alive.
However, rescue teams were unable to determine if the sounds were voices of survivors or not.
‘We are listening for sounds, it’s not specifically, you know human sounds, it could be…not necessarily tapping, it could be steel…it could be some of the debris kind of raining down,’ said Jadallah.
‘We have hope, and every time that we hear a sound, we concentrate on that area… as we continue to hear those sounds, we concentrate on those areas.’
The focus of the search has now turned to combing through the rubble after the parts of the building still standing were fully cleared, he added.
‘So at this point now, all resources have been shifted to the rubble, including from above and from below.’
Heavy machinery will be used to pull some of the metal off the disaster site so teams can search for voids beneath where people could be trapped, he said.
The mayor praised the rescue teams who are putting themselves at ‘extreme risk’ as they search for survivors.
‘This work is being done at extreme risk to these individuals,’ she said.
‘Debris is falling on them as they do their work. We have structural engineers on-site to assure that they will not be injured, but they are proceeding because they are so motivated and they are taking extraordinary risk.’
The mayor said a total of 120 people have now been accounted for ‘which is very, very good news’ but revealed the number of people still missing has climbed to 159 – a number she warned was ‘very fluid’
A banner reading ‘Surfside Strong’ is seen on a balcony nearby close to the condo building in Surfside, near Miami Beach
Rescue teams are seen early Friday using dogs, sonar and heavy machinery to search for any signs of life in the rubble
Teams had worked through the night searching for survivors as they battled with fires reigniting in the rubble
Now, more than 24 hours on from the collapse, at least 37 people have been rescued from the rubble or parts of the damaged building still standing, with 11 injured and four hospitalized
President Joe Biden says the federal government has ‘provided all the help they need’ after declaring a state of emergency in Florida
President Joe Biden said Friday he had spoken on the phone with Governor Ron DeSantis and had sent ‘all the help they need’ to Florida to assist in the rescue mission.
Biden said his administration had sent ‘the best people’ from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) there and said his ‘heart goes out’ to the families left waiting for answers about their loved ones.
‘There’s so many people waiting. Are they alive, will they be, what’ll happen? And so our heart goes out to them,’ Biden said at a White House event where he signed a law declaring the Pulse Night Club a national monument.
‘I promise you, the administration and Congress will do everything possible to be of assistance now and after this occurs, after they decide exactly what the state of play is,’ he said.
‘We’ve provided all the help that they have, they need. We sent the best people from FEMA down there.’
He added: ‘We’re going to stay with them, with the disaster declaration we made, provide for everything from housing to, God forbid, whether there’s a need for [mortuaries] for the bodies to be placed. Everything in between.’
Biden compared the tragedy with the Pulse mass shooting which was the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ+ community in American history.
‘Just first want to say, and I’m sure I speak for all the members of the Congress here today and all the survivors here, that it’s a tough, tough time,’ he said.
Biden signed an emergency declaration just after midnight authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts with state and local officials to ‘save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Miami-Dade County’.
The president said Thursday the federal government was ready to send in assistance but could not do so until Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency – which he did not do until Thursday night.
‘I say to the people of Florida, whatever help you want that the federal government can provide, we are waiting, just ask us, we’ll be there,’ Biden said.
The president could visit the site of the disaster in Miami next week ‘if and when that would be appropriate’ to the officials on the ground, a White House official told CNN.
Rescue teams have now cleared the parts of the building that are still standing and are focusing on combing the rubble
The aerial footage shows the building reduced to rubble while the still standing part of the building has fallen away
At least 37 people have so far been rescued from the rubble or parts of the damaged building still standing, with 11 injured and four hospitalized
Governor Ron DeSantis says Floridians need a ‘definitive explanation’ for what led to the tragedy
DeSantis confirmed in an afternoon press conference that he had spoken with Biden Friday as he vowed to ‘get the answers’ families and the people of Florida need for what had caused the 1980s condo building to suddenly collapse.
The governor thanked the president for sending in federal support and for ‘stepping up to help people who are in need.’
‘I just spoke about an hour ago with President Biden, and he reiterated his administration’s full support. They’re all in,’ DeSantis said.
‘And so we really appreciate having the support of the President and the people of Florida. Really appreciate the President and his administration stepping up to help people who are in need.’
As questions continue to mount over the cause of the tragedy and whether it could have been avoided, DeSantis said the state expected to get a ‘definitive explanation for how this could have happened.’
‘The state will support whatever we can to do this right, but also to do a timely, so that we get the answers to the families, and then we get the answer to the people of Florida,’ he said.
The governor paid a visit to the families gathered at the reunification center, as they wait for news about their loved ones.
People embrace each other on the beach close to the condo building as families of those missing and the local community grapple with the horrific crisis
A total of 55 condos collapsed on Thursday – more than a third of the 136 within the building. Around 80 percent of the building was reportedly occupied
Rescue workers walk among the rubble where part of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed Thursday
Early Friday rescue teams were seen searching for survivors on the balconies of the condos in parts of the building that were still standing
Soon after, officials said the focus of the search had turned to combing through the rubble after the parts of the building still standing were fully cleared
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel spray water on a fire in the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South after a fire reignited during the search
The area around the 12-story condo tower is cordoned off as the rescue mission continues into its second day Friday
Experts are sent to the scene to examine the collapse after 2020 report warned the 12-story building was sinking one year ago
While the focus now is on the hunt for survivors, questions are being asked about what caused the 1980s building to suddenly collapse.
A team of scientists and engineers from the federal government agency responsible for leading investigations into building failures is now being sent to the collapse site to gather information on what went wrong.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) told The Hill the experts will ‘work with federal, state and local authorities to identify and preserve materials that might be helpful in understanding why the collapse occurred.’
The assistance from the group, set up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, comes as speculation continues to build over whether this week’s tragedy could have been avoided.
It emerged Thursday that scientists had warned that the condo building was sinking and in a potentially dangerous condition one year before it collapsed, while it was due a safety certification review for the first time in 40 years. It had also just undergone improvements to its roof.
Authorities have not yet determined what caused the collapse and Miami-Dade police have opened an investigation – though Mayor Cava said ‘there has been no evidence found of foul play.’
Surfside Town Manager Andy Hyatt told CNN Friday morning there had been no concerns about the building’s safety prior to the disaster but said the town would carry out ‘due diligence’ to determine both what caused it and to ensure other buildings in the area are safe.
However, it has emerged that a 2020 study from Florida International University found the Champlain Towers South sea-view condo development was sinking at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s because it sits on reclaimed wetlands.
The oceanfront building was also due to have its safety recertified for the first time in 40 years this year which included the need for ‘extensive repairs for rusted steel and damaged concrete’ on parts of the structure.
It has also been revealed that the tower had recently undergone construction work on its roof, sparking fears this may have piled on additional weight to the sinking structure.
Search and rescue personnel have the grim task of pulling a covered body out of the rubble after the partial collapse
The tragic scene was likely to be repeated as rescuers pulled a covered body out of the wreckage with 99 people missing
A lightning strikes above the Champlain Towers South as Search and Rescue personnel work after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, north of Miami Beach
A shot from a video posted by the Miami Dade fire department shows firefighters in the rubble trying to find people
A Google Street View image shows the tower before its horrific collapse on Thursday
An advertisement for the Champlain Towers is seen in the 1980s. The Champlain Towers South sea-view condo development was built in 1981 by the late developer Nathan Reiber’s company Nattel Construction at 8777 Collins Avenue in the southeast corner of Surfside but hasn’t been updated significantly since then
Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, told USA Today he knew instantly which building had collapsed when he heard news reports because he had studied the building for the report published last year.
‘I looked at it this morning and said ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that,’ he said.
Wdowinski said he found that Champlain Towers South was sinking at a rate of around 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s due to its position on wetlands but that rate could have slowed down or sped up since then.
However, the land’s slow sinking alone would not have caused the building to collapse, he said.
‘It was a byproduct of analyzing the data. We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement,’ Wdowinski told USA Today.
The paper was published in April 2020 in the academic journal Ocean and Coastal Management and was part of a wider look at how buildings in Miami were sinking generally with rising sea levels caused by climate change.
Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, told USA Today that he knew instantly which building had collapsed when he heard news reports because he had studied the building for the report published last year
‘In some locations, as in the eastern part of the city, the detected subsidence [sinking] is of a 12-story high condominium building,’ the paper ominously warns.
It’s not immediately clear if the 12-story building referenced in the paper is the condo that collapsed. It’s also not clear if any officials took note of the paper when it comes to shoring up any dangerous conditions in the area.
In a video posted by FIU, Wdowinski said hundreds of buildings can be sinking bit-by-bit – and hundreds of buildings can have cracks, not just in Miami.
What would cause one to collapse would be an engineering problem, he said.
Wdowinski, who has previously conducted a number of land subsidence studies including one in Mexico City, noted in the video on Thursday that the tragic Mexico City Metro overpass collapse on May 3 that killed 26 people and injured 79 others had happened in an area where he had previously detected land subsidence.
The Champlain Towers South development was built in 1981 by the late developer Nathan Reiber’s company Nattel Construction at 8777 Collins Avenue in the southeast corner of Surfside, but the structure hasn’t been updated significantly since then.
It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market at the time of the collapse with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000. Some have sold for more than $2 million.
The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists.
Hundreds of firefighters were seen walking through the wreckage Thursday, picking up other survivors and carrying them away. Authorities fear many more people may be dead or remain trapped under the rubble
Local officials have said the condo block was right in the middle of going through a recertification process required by Miami Dade building code – which dictates that buildings have to be re-certified every 40 years. The building was due to be recertified for the first time since its construction this year.
Kenneth Direktor, a lawyer for the Champlain Towers South Association, told The Miami Herald on Thursday that to prepare for the recertification process an engineer had been hired to plan ‘structural and electrical’ updates but that work hadn’t started yet.
He told The New York Times that the building had been about to undergo ‘extensive repairs for rusted steel and damaged concrete’ but that he had seen nothing to suggest the collapse was related to issues identified in the engineering review.
Direktor told The Washington Post on Thursday that the building was ‘thoroughly inspected’ recently as part of the recertification process and that a report on the inspection was sent to town authorities.
He described the report’s findings as ‘fairly typical’ for a building of its age and ‘did not cast doubt on its structural integrity,’ according to the outlet.
Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett said roof renovations were being done on the property but that they should not have contributed to the collapse.
‘The building has literally pancaked. That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive,’ he said.
He instead described the collapse as a ‘catastrophic failure’ of the building.
‘It’s hard to imagine how this could have happened,’ Burkett said.
Rescue teams rescued 35 people from the damaged building and two people in the hours after it collapsed, including the young boy, were pulled from the rubble in the early stages of the search operation
The surveillance video, obtained by WSVN, shows portions of the 12-story Miami Beach apartment building crumbling and sending a huge cloud of debris into the air when it collapsed in the middle of the night
‘Buildings just don’t fall down… There’s no reason for this building to go down like that unless someone literally pulls the supports out from underneath.’
He suggested that potential causes could be the result of the foundations being washed out or a sinkhole.
Bruce Masia of KW Property Management & Consulting told Florida’s Biz Journal that the ongoing roof renovation on the property could have added extra weight that the building couldn’t withstand.
However, Surfside Vice Mayor Tina Paul told The Washington Post on Thursday that Champlain Towers South passed a roof inspection on Wednesday – the day before the collapse.
Jeff Rose, a contractor whose parents live in the building, told the Miami Herald that he had done renovations for some of the condos and that work on the roof had started about six weeks ago.
He added that some concrete restoration work was also being done to fix old or damaged concrete but that the concrete work was not out of the ordinary.
Some people in Surfside had previously raised concerns about the integrity of the aging building.
Barry Cohen, 63, the former vice mayor of Surfside, said he raised concerns years ago about whether nearby construction might be causing damage to the building after seeing cracked pavers on the pool deck.
In 2015, a resident also sued in 2015 claiming building management did nothing to repair cracks from water damage.
Rescuers pull a body out of the rubble of the collapsed condo in a harrowing sight as they work through the night
A front end loader shifts rubble mixed with furniture and household items, as rescue efforts continue where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed, late on Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami
A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue team sprays water onto the rubble as rescue efforts continue where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed late on Thursday
A map shows the location of the Champlain Towers in the Miami Beach area
‘Praying for a miracle’: Pregnant mother of a one-year-old daughter and married father-of-three who had been celebrating his birthday are among missing after Miami condo collapse
Distraught friends and family are ‘praying for a miracle’ as at least 159 people are still missing after a 12-story apartment block collapsed in Miami in a disaster feared to have killed scores of sleeping residents.
Among the missing is the first cousin of the former president of Chile and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Pascale Bonnefoy told CNN she had not heard from her father Claudio Bonnefoy since the Champlain Towers South collapsed without warning in the early hours of Thursday morning.
He lived with his wife Maria Bonnefoy in the part of the condo building that has been reduced to rubble, she said.
The couple are among at least 31 Latin American citizens known to be missing including nine Argentinians, six people each from Paraguay, Columbia and Venezuela and three from Uruguay – a number that could climb as the search continues.
Sources close to the investigation told DailyMail.com most people in the building were tourists from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia and had traveled to the US to get COVID-19 vaccines because they are difficult to get in their respective countries.
Many are thought to have been renting the condos as Airbnbs, making it difficult for officials to identify who could be trapped beneath the rubble of the oceanfront complex.
Paraguay’s First Lady Silvana López Moreira arrived into Florida Thursday as her sister and sister’s family remained missing more than 24 hours on from the disaster.
Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill, and their three young children were reported to be among the missing Thursday.
Moreira is the sister-in-law of Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benítez. The family were said to have been celebrating Luis’s birthday just hours before the tragedy after they had traveled to the US to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill and their three young children are among those unaccounted for in Miami after the 12-story apartment building collapsed overnight. Moreira is the sister of President Mario Abdo Benítez’s wife Silvana
Cassandra Stratton (left). Her husband said she was staying in the building and he was speaking on the phone to her at the time it collapsed. She told him the ‘building was shaking’ and, moments later, the line went dead he said. Cassandra had posted a photo of herself on Instagram just hours before (right)
Meanwhile, one concerned husband told Fox21 he was speaking on the phone to his wife who was staying in the building at the time it collapsed.
Michael Stratton, from Denver, said his wife Cassandra Stratton told him the ‘building was shaking’ and, moments later, the line went dead. He has not heard from her since.
‘She described that the building was shaking and then… the phone went dead,’ he said.
Stratton said flew out to Miami as he awaited news about his wife who had been staying in a condo in the building during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cassandra had posted a photo of herself on Instagram just hours before the disaster, posing on a chair in a building in Miami Beach.
Bhavna Patel, a 38-year-old British and US citizen, her husband Vishal Patel, 42, and their one-year-old daughter Aishani, have also not been seen since the building’s collapse, a relative told Sky News. Bhavna had been expecting another baby.
Their devastated friend Vishal Abash described Bhavna ‘as an angel, a sweet kind loving woman … very loving, very unconditional love, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone since the day I met her.’
He described the couple, who were best man and maid of honor at his wedding, as heaven-sent, adding that ‘now maybe God has come to reclaim his angels.’
A woman who said creaking noises woke her up the night before the building collapsed, is also unaccounted for, according to her son Pablo Rodriguez.
Both his mother and grandmother were in the section of 55 condos that collapsed at Champlain Towers at 1.30am on Thursday.
He told CNN: ‘We are praying for a miracle, but at the same time trying to be as realistic about it as possible.’
The president of Paraguay’s sister-in-law Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill, and their three young children are also still missing, Paraguay’s foreign ministry confirmed.
Moreira is the sister of President Mario Abdo Benítez’s wife Silvana. The family are said to have been celebrating Luis’s birthday just hours before the tragedy.
Also unaccounted for are orthopedic surgeon Brad Cohen and his brother Gary. Brad’s wife Soriya Cohen spoke to reporters and showed pictures of her loved ones on her phone while waiting at the Family Assistance Center set up for relatives.
Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor when the building gave way. Their son, Jonathan, who lives in New York City said he hasn’t been able to contact them.
‘I’m trying to be a little optimistic, but I just don’t see it,’ he told WJXT. ‘It just doesn’t seem real, you know? Why this building? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. I’m struggling to make sense of it.’
Bhavna Patel, a 38-year-old British and US citizen, her husband Vishal Patel, 42, and their one-year-old daughter Aishani remain unaccounted for. Her devastated family said that Ms Patel is ‘an angel.’ The mother is also expecting another child.
Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor when the building gave way at 1.30am on Thursday. Their son, Jonathan, who lives in New York City said he hasn’t been able to contact them. ‘I’m trying to be a little optimistic, but I just don’t see it,’ he told WJXT . ‘It just doesn’t seem real, you know? Why this building? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. I’m struggling to make sense of it’
The University of Chicago chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish movement said one of its members Ilan Naibryf and his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin (pictured) were still missing. Writing on Instagram, the group said: ‘Please pray for Ilan Ben Ronit and Deborah Bat Talia Chaya. They are dear friends, gems whom we love dearly. Ilan is a student at UChicago and the President of our Chabad Student Board. They are both family.’
Frankie Kleiman and his wife Annie Ortiz (left), along with Annie’s son Luis, are believed to have been inside the building when it collapsed. Frankie’s brother Jay (right) was visiting for a funeral. Frankie lives on the same floor as their mother Nancy
Luis Andres Bermudez, 26, who has muscular dystrophy, is missing along with his mother Annie Ortiz, wife of Frankie Kleiman who was also inside the building
Jay and Frankie Kleiman were believed to have been inside the building with their mother Nancy Kress Levin (pictured) when it collapsed
Edgar Gonzalez (left), who lived on the ninth floor with his family, is still unaccounted, his relatives told NBC. Dr Brad Cohen (right), who is an orthopedic surgeon at a local hospital, hadn’t been heard from since 3am. His wife, Soriya Cohen, said he lived on the 10th floor
Among the missing are orthopedic surgeon Brad Cohen and his brother Gary (Gary is pictured). Brad’s wife Soriya Cohen spoke to reporters and showed pictures of her loved ones on her phone while waiting at the Family Assistance Center set up for relatives.
Soriya Cohen holds up a picture of her husband, Brad
The synagogue at Bal Harbour, about eight blocks from Champlain Towers, has opened it doors to help those affected with food supplies and other donations. Around a dozen members of the synagogue are unaccounted for.
Chani Lipskar, the wife of the rabbi, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that thousands around the world were praying for not just the missing Jews, but everyone else impacted by the tragedy.
Families have started sharing images of their missing relatives online as firefighters continue trawling through the wreckage. Many of their photos have been compiled by CBS4 reporter Frances Wang.
Carlos Pou, who lives in Baco Raton, told The Miami Herald he knew at least six people who were living at or visiting the building at the time of the collapse.
He identified brothers Jay and Frankie Kleiman, their mother Nancy Kress Levin, and Frankie’s wife Annie Ortiz and her son Luis Bermúdez.
Frankie lived on the same floor as his mother Nancy and his brother Jay had been visiting for a funeral, Pou said. He said he’d left several voicemails but had not been able to get hold of the Kleimans.
A friend of the family told the Herald: ‘They are young people with kids. Frankie’s daughter is pregnant.’
The University of Chicago chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish movement said one of its members Ilan Naibryf and his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin had also been inside the building.
Writing on Instagram, the group said: ‘Please pray for Ilan Ben Ronit and Deborah Bat Talia Chaya. They are dear friends, gems whom we love dearly. Ilan is a student at UChicago and the President of our Chabad Student Board. They are both family.’
Andres Galfrascoli (left) his partner Fabian Nunez, right, and their newly adopted daughter Sofia, who was six, died while visiting their apartment in Florida to get vaccinated
The family of Luis Barth say the 51-year-old was visiting from Colombia and was staying in a friend’s condo with his wife and daughter. The condo was on the collapsed side and no one has heard from any of them
Ilan Naibryf and his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin have not been heard from and were staying in the apartment building
Ricky and Maituca Rovirosa are also missing, family members told Local 10
Also missing is a famed Argentinian plastic surgeon, his partner, and their newly-adopted six year-old daughter.
That surgeon – Andres Galfrasconi, 45 – was visiting Miami with his partner Fabian Nunez, 55, and their daughter Sofia, six, to receive their COVID-19 vaccines.
Argentinian singer Julia Zenko was one of Galfrasconi’s clients, with Zyri.net reporting she was ‘very distressed’ by his disappearance following the collapse.
The couple and their daughter were staying at an apartment owned by an unidentified friend, who says she has not been able to contact them.
Judy Spiegel, 66, the wife of former Erlanger Health System Chief Executive Officer Kevin Spiegel is also missing.
He confirmed in a text message to WRCBTV that she was still unaccounted for Thursday afternoon.
The two lived together.
‘I’m flying to Miami now,’ he wrote. Please pray for her.’
Edgar Gonzalez, who lived on the ninth floor with his family, is still unaccounted for.
His wife Angela and daughter Devon, 16, survived the disaster and were being treated in Jackson Memorial Hospital.
A family friend told CBS Local Angela saved her daughter’s life by dragging them both from the rubble to safety, despite having suffered a broken pelvis when they both plunged four stories in the collapse.
Graciella Catarossi (left) and her daughter Estella (right) are also missing. They were staying with Graciella’s elderly parents, who have not been identified, but are also unaccounted for
The family of Luis Barth say the 51-year-old was visiting from Colombia and was staying in a friend’s condo with his wife and daughter.
Barth’s brother Sergio, who lives in Miami, told the New York Times the condo they were staying in was on the collapsed side and that he has been unable to reach him.
Theresa Valasquez, 36, was visiting her parents Julio, 67, and Angela, 60, when the towers collapsed.
Her brother David Velasquez wrote on Facebook that his sister had arrived at their parents’ condo on Wednesday, and have not been found.
Alfredo and his son Lorenzo Leone are also missing. A friend told CBS4 that their mother was out of town and is flying back
Judy Spiegel, 66, (left) the wife of former Erlanger Health System Chief Executive Officer Kevin Spiegel, and Estelle Hedaya (right) are also missing. A friend told CBS 4 that she was on the phone with Hedaya for an hour and a half last night, but is currently unable to get hold of her
Elaine Sabino (left) lived on the 12 floor and Linda March (right) lived in penthouse 4 of the condo. March is an attorney who had recently moved back from Miami from New York, a friend told Local 10. Both are still missing
A friend said they recognized bunk beds and a desk chair exposed in the side of the partially collapsed building as belonging to the apartment March was staying in
Also missing is Estelle Hedaya.
A friend of Hedaya told CBS4 that the two had spoken on the phone for an hour and a half last night, but is currently unable to get hold of her.
Graciella Catarossi, and her daughter Estella are also missing.
A friend told Local 10 that the two were staying with Graciella’s elderly parents, who are also unaccounted for.
Luis Andres Bermudez, 26, is missing along with his mother Ana Ortiz.
Bermudez reportedly has muscular dystrophy and cannot walk or call for help, a cousin told CBS4.
Alfredo Leone and his young son Lorenzo are also unaccounted for.
A friend told CBS4 that their mother was out of town and is flying back.
Elaine Sabino was on the 12th floor and is also still missing.
Linda March was renting a penthouse in the condo. March is an attorney who had recently moved back from Miami from New York after recovering from COVID-19, a friend told Local 10.
March had been complaining recently about the noise caused by the repairs being made to the tower’s roof, the friend said.
Messages sent to March’s phone were unanswered and the friend said they recognized bunk beds and a desk chair exposed in the side of the partially collapsed building as belonging to the apartment she was staying in.
Brothers Frankie and Jay Kleinman as well as their mother Nancy Kress Levin are also missing.
They were with Annie Ortiz, her son Luis Bermudez as well as Deborah Berezdivin.
A friend told the Miami Herald that all six are Puerto Rican.
At least 27 people from Latin American nations are among the missing, the Herald also reported.
Myriam and Arnie Notkin are among the missing. Arnie is a longtime peewee football coach in Flamingo Park, NBC reported
Raymond and Mercedes Urgelles. Their daughter Jenny has been trying to reach them since 5.30am, according to NBC
Theresa Velasquez (left) was missing along with her parents Julio and Angela Velasquez (right). Theresa was visiting them during the collapse and the three have not been heard from, her brother posted on Facebook
Nicky Langesfeld and Luis Sadovnic were living on the eighth floor, CBS4 Miami reported
Moises Rodan, 28, lived in unit 308, according to CBS4 Miami
More than 100 people gathered at a family reunification center by mid-morning on Thursday as they awaited news on their family and friends.
Authorities said 53 people had been accounted for by Thursday afternoon but 159 who are believed to have lived in the building were still missing as of Friday morning. It was unclear whether any, or all of them, were inside at the time of the collapse.
The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents.
Officials say the building keeps a log of guests staying but does not keep track of when owners are in residence.
Thirty-five people were rescued from the damaged building and 14 people, including a young boy, were pulled from the rubble in the early stages of the search operation. Two of those people, including the woman who has since died, were taken to hospital. Three more fatalities were confirmed Friday morning.
Authorities fear many more people may be dead or remain trapped under the rubble and have already warned the recovery efforts could last an entire week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said rescue teams had made contact with some survivors by mid-morning but did not elaborate on where they were located or if they had been rescued.’Right now, we have the fire rescue. They are in search and rescue mode. They are trying to identify survivors, I know they have made contact with some, and I know they are doing everything they can to save lives,’ he said.
Luz Marina holds a picture of her aunt, Marina Azen
Marina Azen and Michael Altman are also missing. Azen has been living in the condo for about 20 years, family told CBS4 Miami
Crowds of people were gathering at a family reunification center set up nearby as they awaited news on their family and friends
Authorities say the building was ‘substantially full’ when it collapsed. Of the building’s 136 apartments, 55 were destroyed. Families are pictured at a family reunification center on Thursday morning
The other areas in Miami where buildings are at risk of collapse: Map from report that predicted 12-story condo collapse reveals water-logged spots
The research identified four sites along Miami Beach where the ground is sinking. Champlain Towers South, top right, was sinking at the slowest rate
The report that detailed that the Champlain Towers South building was sinking before its horrific collapse on Thursday described other areas in Miami Beach where buildings could be at risk of collapse because of land sinking and coastal flooding.
The study revealed that in southwest South Beach, there is significant coastal flooding. It also identified other parts of northeast Miami Beach where the ground has sunk.
The report was done by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University. He studied Miami Beach last year and a coastal town in Virginia to see where coastal flooding might have impacted the ground and caused it to sink.
When Champlain Towers collapsed on Thursday, Wdowinski said it came as no surprise given his research last year.
It’s unclear if he gave any kind of warning to the building operators last year after he carried out his research.
It found that the ground beneath the building has been sinking at a rate of 1.9mm every year since the 1990s.
Another site where the same thing was happening is in the area surrounding Park View Island, near where there is an elementary school.
That patch of land has been sinking faster than the land beneath Champlain Towers South – at 2.3mm a year.
Further south, there are two sites in the Flamingo/Lummus area of South Beach that Wdowinski’s team identified as also sinking at rates of 2.2mm a year and 2mm a year. They are in a residential and commercial district, just to the east of Star Island, the celebrity enclave.
He also found that North Bay Village, an island in between Miami Beach and Miami, was sinking.
In an interview with USA Today on Thursday, Wdowinski said: ‘I looked at it this morning and said ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that.’
He maintains that land subsidence would not cause a building to collapse and that something else must have contributed to it.
The study analyzed data from satellites using the technology Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, known as InSAR, to compile datasets spanning from 1992–1999.
The map shows Miami Beach, left, with locations were there high amounts of land subsidence (in red) and coastal flooding (in blue). It reveals that there are other areas where the ground has subsided at a faster rate than where the Champlain Tower South collapsed
The team analyzed four sites where the ground has been sinking. The top one shows the Champlain Towers site and the others are all parts of land where there are apartment buildings, stores and even one near an elementary school. They were all sinking at a faster rate than the Champlain Towers site. The researchers say this alone shouldn’t cause buildings to collapse so there’s no need for alarm
The center portion of the tower was the first to fall with the east section of the building collapsing moments later
The study found that land sank in locations around Miami Beach at rates between 1 and 3 millimeters per year- mainly in parts of the city built on reclaimed wetlands.
In Norfolk, land subsidence was seen in areas along the shore and inland at similar rates – with some areas showing land sinking at rates up to 8 millimeters per year.
According to the United States Geological Survey, more than 80% of known land subsidence in the U.S. ‘is a consequence of groundwater use and is an often-overlooked environmental consequence’ of land and water-use practices.
‘Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface due to removal or displacement of subsurface earth materials,’ according to the agency.
It can occur at different rates and has even been recorded at rates more than 200 millimeters per year in some places around the globe like Jakarta, Indonesia.
Norfolk and Miami Beach were chosen as the locations for the study because both communities have been subjected to repeated coastal flooding over the past decade, the researchers said in the study.
In Norfolk, flooding has occurred in multiple locations throughout the city characterized by low elevation.
A huge emergency search and rescue operation is underway after the beachfront condo tower, Champlain Towers South, collapsed at about 1.30am this morning in the Miami neighborhood of Surfside. One woman has been confirmed dead and at least eight people were injured
Rescue teams rescued 35 people from the damaged building and two people, including the young boy, were pulled from the rubble in the early stages of the search operation
The results indicate that about 97% of Miami Beach was stable during the observation period but several localized subsiding areas were detected mostly in the western part of the city.
The study noted that most of the subsidence happened at single-family houses that were built on reclaimed wetlands. However, the study also specifically called out the Champlain Towers South condominium.
‘In some locations, as in the eastern part of the city, the detected subsidence is of a 12-story high condominium building,’ the report reads.
However, the study determined that higher subsidence rates up to 3.8 millimeters per year were registered in the artificial islands located west of the city like the Venetian Islands as well as North Bay Village.
Portions of Miami Beach like Mid-Beach and Bayshore as well as La Gorce appeared to show lower levels of subsidence.
‘The rest of the city remained stable,’ the report reads.
Luckily, some of Miami Beach’s tallest buildings, including the 44-floor Green Diamond and Blue Diamond towers, appear to sit in areas with low levels of land subsidence.
The report appears to conclude that the geology of the area, which is made up of a plateau of karst limestone, may contribute to localized subsidence even though no regional subsidence has been recorded in south Florida.
Wdowinski uploaded a video to the Vimeo platform on Thursday explaining the findings of his study and why it had been conducted.
‘For this area of the Atlantic Coast, at the time, there weren’t at the time many observations,’ he said.
He said that the 1 to 3 millimeters per year subsidence is ‘pretty small’ but added ‘when you think about the accumulation over time then it can be a few inches over decades and that was our concern.’
Wdowinski said that InSar has been used to monitor buildings and in many cases where buildings crack and move, they also show subsidence.
‘We’ve seen that in another study that we studied detections of sinkholes in central western Florida, we saw that there were some buildings that moved and when we went to check we saw there were some cracks,’ Wdowinski said.
The researcher said that the InSar technology is commonly used around the world to detect movement of buildings.
‘In most cases, these buildings move and there’s no catastrophic collapse like in the case here in Surfside – which was very unfortunate,’ he said.
Wdowinski said that the western parts of the city where the researchers detected subsidence were in places where the researchers had expected to see the subsidence.
‘There was unusual pocket we saw in surfside which was in the eastern side, known to be a stable part of the city,’ he said.
‘Over there, we didn’t expect to see subsidence, so we didn’t pay too much attention to that. We just recorded it because that’s what the data shows.’
He added: ‘We just reported that because the focus of the study was about land subsidence and not about trying to analyze building damage or anything like that. So it’s a byproduct of our analysis that we saw movement and we didn’t pay that much attention and just recorded it in the paper.’
A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue team sprays water onto the rubble as rescue efforts continue where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed late on Thursday
Wdowinski, who has previously conducted a number of land subsidence studies including one in Mexico City, noted in the video on Thursday that the tragic Mexico City Metro overpass collapse on May 3 that killed 26 people and injured 79 others had happened in an area where he had previously detected land subsidence.
He said that the land subsidence seen in Miami Beach occurs in ‘smaller pockets’ about the size of a house than like that he had detected in Mexico City.
‘In some cases, it can be just that the building is not built properly and it can have cracks because of the problem of the building itself and it still moves – and we can detect it with this technology.’
In Miami Beach, the city is built on a barrier island that has a rockier foundation on the eastern side. The western side was made of wetlands that were reclaimed before houses were built on the reclaimed wetlands – which tends to subside in a process called soil consolidation.
‘In the eastern side of the city where the buildings are built on bedrock, it’s less likely to have movement of the building and the ground beneath the building – which is why we didn’t expect to see any movement,’ he said.
‘The building can move due to the land or can be due to cracks within the buildings and hundreds of buildings have cracks and they move … and it doesn’t mean it will collapse.’
He said there was ‘something from an engineering point of view that caused it to collapse’ and that it could have been from the ground moving or cracks that had formed in the building in the 1990s.