A year later, Surfside remembers 98 apartment collapse victims

Surfside, Florida (AP) – A year ago in the middle of the night, a 12-story oceanfront apartment building in Surfside, Florida collapsed with a thunderous roar, leaving a huge pile of rubble and killing 98 people – one of the deadliest avalanches in US history. .

The disaster in Champlain Towers South also turned into the largest emergency response not involving a hurricane in Florida history.

Its victims were honored Friday at events on the ground where, for two weeks this past June and July, rescue crews from elsewhere in Florida and as far away as Mexico and Israel landed to help local teams dig into the pile and search for victims.

Friday’s agenda includes a special overnight gathering for families to light the flame. First Lady Jill Biden is expected to speak at a public event organized by the town of Surfside.

Only two teenagers and a woman survived the fall and were pulled out of the rubble, while others escaped from the part of the building that initially remained.

Images of a survivor’s rescue went viral, giving a glimmer of hope soon after the collapse, but the long and painstaking search yielded often devastating results as families waited in agony only to find out the remains of their loved ones.

Among those missing in the meltdown is the 7-year-old daughter of a firefighter who helped with the search, and was later found dead along with her mother, aunt, and grandparents; A woman whose cries for help were heard in the early hours but suddenly stopped; And two sisters, 4 and 11, were pulled out of the rubble, and she was very young and was buried in the same coffin. A 12-year-old girl sat down to pray across the ruins for her doctor father, who was eventually found dead.

Among the victims were locals and visitors from Orthodox Jews, Latin Americans, Israelis, Europeans, and snowbirds from the northeast.

The cause of the collapse is still being investigated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with the probe entering a new phase this month for cutting concrete, steel and drilling. Champlain Towers South has a long history of maintenance problems, and poor building techniques were used in the early 1980s. Other potential factors include sea level rise caused by climate change and damage from saltwater intrusion.

Pablo Langsfield, the father of a 26-year-old lawyer who had married and moved into the building a few months before the collapse, said the closure for him would only take place after the investigation was completed.

“This is a nightmare that never ends,” Langsfeld told The Associated Press.

The site where the building was located was bulldozed.

Although the investigation is expected to take years, the judge agreed to settle more than $1 billion in damages Thursday for the victims.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hansman has praised the dozens of lawyers involved, describing them as a woman who lost her daughter as heroes in black robes and business suits.

Hansmann said the compensation deal was exceptional in its scope and speed.

This compromise is the best we can do. “It’s a fantastic result,” he said.

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