Final Victim of Surfside Condo Collapse Is Identified

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A comparative of Estelle Hedaya, 54, said the authorities had identified her remains. The last decease toll is 98.

Family and friends of the victims held a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Champlain Towers South illness  successful  Surfside, Fla., this month.
Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

July 26, 2021, 4:22 p.m. ET

SURFSIDE, Fla. — More than a period aft the terrifying illness of a condominium operation successful Surfside, Fla., the past victim’s remains were identified, 1 of her relatives said connected Monday, bringing the last decease toll to 98 and capping a tedious, painstaking effort to relationship for each nonmigratory who had been killed.

The member of Estelle Hedaya, 54, who lived successful a sixth-floor condo astatine the Champlain Towers South, said the constabulary contacted the household connected Monday, saying her remains had been found. The authorities scheduled a quality league for precocious Monday afternoon.

The catastrophe is present officially one of the deadliest structural gathering failures successful American history.

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Credit...Liz Segel, via Associated Press

Searchers spent respective weeks relentlessly digging done the alloy and factual remains of the 13-story gathering successful a hunt for survivors, agelong aft it seemed that anticipation had been lost. But aft rescuing a 15-year-old boy, Jonah Handler, and uncovering his mother, Stacie Fang, who died astatine a hospital, conscionable hours aft the illness connected June 24, searchers recovered nary 1 other live successful the debris, uncovering lone quality remains.

The search-and-rescue effort officially ended connected July 7, but officials vowed that the betterment cognition would not cease until each the rubble had been searched and each victim’s assemblage had been found.

While the hunt for bodies astatine the illness tract concluded connected Friday, teams of constabulary officers continued to hunt off-site done millions of pounds of debris for evidence, victims’ remains and idiosyncratic items belonging to residents.

The find of Ms. Hedaya’s remains ends a long, achy play of waiting for her household and friends, who followed on arsenic each different unfortunate was identified wrong a period of the collapse. Ms. Hedaya’s younger brother, Ikey, traveled to Florida twice, offering a DNA illustration and praying adjacent the site.

“Your archetypal absorption is daze and disbelief, and past conscionable crying till you can’t stop, and past accepting what you can’t change,” Ms. Hedaya’s mother, Linda Hedaya, said connected Friday earlier her daughter’s remains were found.

Estelle Hedaya had relocated to Florida from New York to statesman a caller chapter, and truthful overmuch successful her beingness was looking up, said her brother. She had mislaid weight, bought a caller reddish car and was focused connected her spirituality.

Her mother’s privation was that her girl would beryllium recovered truthful she could person a due burial.

“We person nary prime but to spell on, but I privation to springiness her the respect that she deserves,” Linda Hedaya said. “She was my firstborn. I called her my shining star.”

Search-and-rescue teams from Florida, respective different states, Israel and Mexico battled unsafe terrain to comb done the remains of the collapsed condo, breathing done billows of heavy fume arsenic they extinguished occasional fires.

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Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

For much than a week, the remaining portion of the gathering towered implicit them, until it was demolished connected July 4 amid the large fireworks celebrations of adjacent Miami Beach, opening caller avenues for searchers and speeding the betterment of remains. Tropical Storm Elsa brought lightning and dense rain, forcing teams to periodically intermission their efforts.

As the days dragged on, household members who gathered astatine a reunification halfway and adjacent hotels for updates connected the hunt were swabbed for DNA to assistance place bodies, arsenic a increasing throng of radical — including President Biden — paid their respects astatine adjacent memorials.

Frequently Asked Questions

It could instrumentality months for investigators to find precisely wherefore a important information of the Surfside, Fla., gathering collapsed. But determination are already immoderate clues astir imaginable reasons for the disaster, including plan oregon operation flaws. Three years earlier the collapse, a advisor recovered evidence of “major structural damage” to the factual slab beneath the excavation platform and “abundant” cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage. Engineers who person visited the wreckage oregon viewed photos of it accidental that damaged columns astatine the building’s basal may person little alloy reinforcement than was primitively planned.

Condo boards and homeowners’ associations often struggle to person residents to wage for needed repairs, and astir of Champlain Towers South’s committee members resigned successful 2019 due to the fact that of their frustrations. In April, the caller committee seat wrote to residents that conditions successful the gathering had “gotten importantly worse” successful the past respective years and that the operation would present outgo $15 cardinal alternatively of $9 million. There had besides been complaints from residents that the operation of a massive, Renzo Piano-designed residential operation adjacent doorway was shaking Champlain Towers South.

Entire household units died because the illness happened successful the mediate of the night, erstwhile radical were sleeping. The parents and children killed successful Unit 802, for example, were Marcus Joseph Guara, 52, a instrumentality of the stone set Kiss and the University of Miami Hurricanes; Anaely Rodriguez, 42, who embraced tango and salsa dancing; Lucia Guara, 11, who recovered astronomy and outer abstraction fascinating; and Emma Guara, 4, who loved the satellite of princesses. A floor-by-floor look astatine the victims shows the grade of the devastation.

A 15-year-old lad and his parent were rescued from the rubble soon aft the gathering fell. She died successful a hospital, however, and nary much survivors were recovered during two weeks of a search-and-rescue mission. There had been anticipation that demolishing the remaining structure would let rescuers to safely research voids wherever idiosyncratic could perchance person survived. But lone bodies were found. There were 97 confirmed victims done July 14.

“We person each asked God for a miracle,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County told reporters erstwhile the hunt for survivors was declared over. “So the determination to modulation from rescue to betterment is an highly hard one.”

As clip passed, the authorities recovered it much and much hard to place the recovered victims due to the fact that of the deteriorated authorities of the remains. The process required aesculapian examiners to deploy extended resources, including extracting DNA from bones and partnering with the F.B.I. to assistance delicate fingerprints.

Officials volition present crook their full absorption to determining what could person caused the collapse. While hunt teams dug done the rubble, truthful did homicide detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, looking for immoderate clues.

“There was thing very, precise incorrect with this situation,” Mayor Charles W. Burkett of Surfside said connected June 26. “We’re going to find retired what happened — not tomorrow, not today, but not successful the indefinite future.”

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