4 Dead and Up to 159 Missing in Florida


Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said three bodies had been pulled from the rubble overnight, but rescue teams remained hopeful of finding survivors.

The first identified victim of the Florida condo collapse is Stacie Fang, 54, whose son was rescued.

Rescue workers continued Friday to comb through the rubble of the Champlain Towers condos in Surfside, Fla., just north of Miami Beach. But by afternoon, 159 people remained unaccounted for and four people confirmed dead, the same numbers officials had released early in the morning. No survivors had been found Friday.

“Speaking with a lot of these family members, when they’re unaccounted for, it’s a really, really difficult thing because they just don’t know,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said.

Officials continued to express hope that they would find survivors in the rubble, but there was also a growing realization that time could be running short. Family members of the missing were asked to provide D.N.A. swabs in case it was needed to identify remains. President Biden said federal mortuary services would be available if needed.

“My mind tells me there is no way she could have survived such a massive collapse, but I believe in a God that can do anything,” said Sally Noriega, whose 91-year-old mother-in-law, Hilda Noriega, lived in the building and has not been heard from.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said crews were doing everything they could to safely sort through the rubble and hopefully find survivors.

“These first responders are going in through tunnels, they’re working from the top, they’re working from the bottom,” Ms. Levine Cava said. “It has to be done very, very carefully. They can’t dislodge pieces of debris that could injure them in the process. They can’t dislodge debris that could possibly make it more difficult to continue the search.”

An official with the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department said Friday that Stacie Fang, 54, died in the collapse. Ms. Fang was rescued from the rubble but pronounced dead at a hospital. She is the first victim to be identified by the medical examiner. Ms. Fang was the mother of Jonah Handler, a 15-year-old boy pulled from the rubble on Thursday in a dramatic rescue, the authorities said.

“We could see his arms sticking out and his fingers wiggling,” said Nicholas Balboa, 31, who was walking near Champlain Towers when he saw the building collapse. “He was just saying, ‘Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.’”

The stunning collapse of the residential building, in the beachfront town of Surfside, left few answers and considerable questions about how a 40-year-old condo building could have suddenly crumbled as residents rested in their beds.

The structure, with more than 130 units, was home to a mix of retirees and well-off professionals with young families. The wrecked interiors of what were once people’s homes gaped open toward the ocean: Broken air-conditioning units. An empty bunk bed. Linens waving in the wind.

“The collapse stopped right at our apartment,” said Marian Smeraldi-Lopez, who said she escaped from the sixth floor on the partly collapsed building’s stairway. “No apartments on that north side were visible. Just air, debris and rubble.”

A lawyer for the resident-led association that manages Champlain Towers said the building had been about to undergo extensive repairs for rusted steel and damaged concrete.

Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Levine Cava pledged to investigate the causes of the collapse.

“We all want answers; we all need answers,” Ms. Levine Cava said. “We never want this to happen again.”

The first victim of the Florida condo collapse to be identified is Stacie Fang, 54, the authorities said.

Her son, Jonah Handler, 15, was pulled alive from the rubble on Thursday in a dramatic rescue.

Ms. Fang was also pulled from the wreckage but pronounced dead on Thursday at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Department said on Friday.

The cause of her death was blunt force trauma, the medical examiners said.

“There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,” the Fang and Handler families said in a statement posted on Twitter by a local TV reporter.

According to Ms. Fang’s LinkedIn page, she worked since 2009 as a vice president for a company that organizes an annual event for retail marketers. She studied business administration and management at Pace University in New York, and graduated in 1990.

Ms. Fang’s sister, Virginia Borges, arrived at the reunification center for victims’ families on Thursday afternoon. Ms. Borges told The Washington Post before authorities confirmed her sister’s death that her nephew had not been badly injured.

“He wants to know what happened to his mother,” Ms. Borges said. “We all want to know.”

Video of Jonah’s rescue shows emergency workers hoisting him out of the wreckage and strapping him to a stretcher.

Nicholas Balboa, 31, said he was walking near Champlain Towers when he saw the building collapse and heard a boy calling for help.

“We could see his arms sticking out and his fingers wiggling,” Mr. Balboa said. “He was just saying, ‘Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.’”

The boy said his mother had been with him, but Mr. Balboa heard no other voices. Using his cellphone flashlight, Mr. Balboa flagged a police officer, who rushed toward them with a rescue crew. The crew dug through debris and used a saw to get the boy out, Mr. Balboa said.

Jonah Handler plays baseball for Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, according to his scouting page. The Archdiocese of Miami said that he was in his sophomore year.

“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,” the Fang and Handler families said in their statement.


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