Rescue Workers Find Body and Human Remains, Bringing Death Toll to 5

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U.S.|Rescue workers find a body and human remains, bringing death toll to 5.

Mayor Danielle Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said search and rescue workers found one body and other human remains at the Champlain Towers South building collapse on Saturday evening, bringing the confirmed death tally to five, with 156 people still unaccounted for.
Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times
  • June 26, 2021, 7:45 p.m. ET

Search and rescue workers at the site of the deadly collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Fla., found one body and other human remains on Saturday evening, bringing the confirmed death toll to five, with 156 people still unaccounted for, according to Mayor Danielle Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County.

“We have identified three bodies in the rubble,” Ms. Levine Cava said at a Saturday evening news briefing. “And have already notified the next of kin.”

Ms. Levine Cava said that officials would not yet release the names of the victims out of respect for their families.

The announcement was the most significant development at the search site in more than a day. On Saturday morning, Ms. Levine Cava told reporters at a news conference that no further victims had been found Friday night or early Saturday.

Ms. Levine Cava confirmed that family members of those missing had already been swabbed for DNA samples in order to help identify human remains as they are found.

Stacie Fang was the first victim identified. She was pulled from the wreckage on Thursday, and was pronounced dead at the Aventura Hospital and Medical Center. Her 15-year-old son, Jonah Handler, had been pulled alive from the rubble earlier that same day. A video of him being rescued from the rubble spread widely after the building collapse.

Erika Benitez, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Fire Department, said Saturday morning that it had been a while since rescue workers had heard sounds of people from beneath the rubble. But she said that the search and rescue team believed that finding survivors remained a possibility.


South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team members look for survivors at the Champlain Towers South on Saturday.
Credit...Al Diaz/Miami Herald, via Associated Press

Ms. Levine Cava said on Saturday evening that the smoke at the building site had dissipated since morning.

“Our top priority continues to be search and rescue and saving any lives that we can,” Ms. Levine Cava said.

At the family reunification center at the Grand Beach Hotel in Surfside, the stress and anxiety among the victims’ families intensified throughout the day, especially upon hearing the news that human remains being discovered.

Adriana LaFont — whose ex-husband, Manuel LaFont lived in Apartment 801 and remains missing — told reporters that she believed search and rescue workers were doing their best.

“I understand for families it’s a very hard situation there in the hotel,” she said. “They feel hopeless with the time, but I have my faith. It’s strong as heck every day, and I have a feeling Manny is alive.”

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