Surfside condo collapse: Death toll rises to 9; 152 still missing

Author: WINK News & wire reports Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Leo Soto, who created this memorial with grocery stores donating flowers and candles, pauses in front of photos of some of the missing people that he put on a fence, near the site of an oceanfront condo building that partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., Friday, June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Four more bodies were recovered overnight, bringing the official death toll to nine as crews continue to dig through the massive pile of rubble in the deadly Surfside condo collapse.

One victim died at the hospital and additional human remains were also found, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

“We were able to recover four additional bodies in the rubble as well additional human remains. As of today, one victim passed away in the hospital, and we’ve recovered eight … victims on site. So, I am confirming today that the death toll is at nine. We’ve identified four of the victims and notified the next of kin,” Levine Cava said.

The community and loved ones are still holding on to hope as search and rescue operations enter the fourth day. More than 150 remain unaccounted for after the 12-story beachfront Champlain Tower South partially collapsed early Thursday.

Miami-Dade’s mayor also says that four additional victims have been identified.

Miami-Dade police have identified eight of the nine people who have been found. They are:

  • Manuel LaFont, 54
  • Gladys Lozano, 79
  • Antonio Lozano, 83
  • Stacie Dawn Fang, 54
  • Leon Oliwkowicz, 80
  • Luis Bermudez, 26
  • Anna Ortiz, 46
  • Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74

One other person has yet to be publicly identified.

RELATED: The stories of the recovered victims

Officials bused relatives of the missing close to the site on Sunday after some family members expressed frustration with the pace of search and rescue efforts and requested greater access.

Local officials have kept the news media and relatives away from the immediate area around the Champlain Towers South as rescuers dig through debris to try to find signs of survivors on the fourth day after the collapse.

Levine Cava said officials would allow relatives a visit “near” the site “to reflect and pray.”

WINK News will carry any press conferences from Surfside as they happen. You can watch them live below or here on our app. We will send alerts through the app when any press conferences are set to begin.

WINK News interviewed the ex-wife of Manuel Lafont on Friday when she was still hoping he would be found alive. She said his children had visited him just before the collapse, leaving three hours before it happened.

As the search drags on, there’s a feeling of pain – but there’s also hope. A makeshift memorial outside the site continues to grow as people drop off flowers and candles. Firefighters are also placing toys there that were found in the rubble, such as a Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear. The memorial displays the names of many of the missing, people of all ages and from many nationalities.

So many of their loved ones are just down the road, watching, waiting, and praying, not giving up hope of good news. As these people wait for word of their loved ones, the community is doing anything they can to help. Many have stopped by with food and water, and to offer comfort.

RELATED: How you can help

Families of the missing are also giving DNA samples in hopes of speeding up the identification process. One woman said it’s hard not getting answers.

“It’s a sad situation we never thought we were going to be in,” said Rebecca Wasserstein. “I’m here to support my family, to support my brother and support my niece … and to have the hope.”

After spending a great deal of Saturday dealing with a persistent fire at the site, officials said they believe it to be contained.

Levine Cava said it has been burning for a while, deep in the pile, so it’s hard to locate. Crews dug a trench in the rubble, creating areas where they hope to find the source. Levine Cava said there are crevices in the damage, so there’s air, which gives hope for a chance of life.

Neighboring city Miami Beach declared a state of emergency Sunday to ensure the city’s eligibility for the reimbursement of emergency-related expenditures.

“A significant portion of the staging for the emergency response efforts is taking place within Miami Beach, including use of city streets, property and other facilities for search and rescue command centers, the use of city parking lots for personnel and equipment, and the use of city property to support the significant media presence on the scene of this national tragedy,” according to a statement from the city.

WINK News Reporter Brea Hollingsworth is reporting from Surfside. This story will be updated as developments warrant.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.