SWFL first responders return after assisting in Surfside

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
task force 6 homecoming
credit: WINK News

It was an emotional homecoming for Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 6 who returned to Southwest Florida after assisting with the Surfside building collapse.

Families cheered them on as they returned to a Bonita Springs fire station.

Long-awaited embraces with loved ones and signs of support were what greeted the members of Task Force 6 once they returned home from a trying and tiring week in Surfside.

“It’s bittersweet to be home. There’s still a lot to be done over there so that part is a little disappointing. There are still people that need closure,” said Greg DeWitt, leader of Task Force 6.

They worked 12-hour shifts digging through the rubble. As they worked day and night, even fighting a fire in the process, being around the impacted families had to be the most difficult part.

“A couple different times they would yell out their loved one’s name and that was like, if you weren’t expecting, that it was kind of like, ‘whoa, what’s going on,'” DeWitt said.

They even worked alongside the Miami firefighter who lost his daughter in the collapse.

“That is a humbling experience for me. And to know that right before we left we were able help recover and help him with closure. He’s family,” said Shane Sibert, program manager of Task Force 6.

The very thing that helped Task Force 6 through the hardships was their families. During their week in Surfside, the task force emphasized ‘family first.’

“That was our motto. Every day at 11 o’clock, have you called your family, have you called the loved ones back home, because they’re the ones that are your support system,” DeWitt said.

Even though they’re back in Southwest Florida, their thoughts and hearts remain in Surfside.

Task Force 6 had to return home due to Tropical Storm Elsa. They are the only search and rescue team in the state ready to respond to possible storm impacts right now.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.