Report: Teen trapped underneath Surfside could not be saved

Reporter: Sydney Persing
Published: Updated:
Valeria Barth, 14, lived for 10 hours underneath the rubble of the Surfside collapse. Rescuers were unable to dig her out.

A 14-year-old girl was reportedly screaming for hours, stuck under the rubble of the collapsed Surfside Towers, according to USA Today.

Rescuers tried to save Valeria Barth but were unable to get her out.

WINK News spoke to her uncle Sergio Barth as he waited to hear news of her and her two parents, Luis and Catalina.

“When I saw the building, I just realized they were inside,” Barth said. “I know we are just 150 families just waiting for a miracle.”

More than two weeks after Barth spoke to WINK News, he got the official word, his three family members were among the 98 that died after the Champlain Tower South collapsed on June 24.

The family is now at the center of a USA Today report which details the teen’s final hours alive under all of the rubble. 

Investigative reporter Wendy Rhodes obtained public records, written logs and audio tapes, which described how the search for Valeria was complicated by equipment failures and lack of access to proper tools.

“A building collapse is not something that happens every day in Miami, right. And it takes special equipment to deal with that. And they just simply didn’t have it in those early hours,” Rhodes said.

A fire eventually broke out on the mattress next to Valeria and rescuers were forced to evacuate.

When they returned, she was dead.

Valeria was a dancer and a tennis player.

Her dad, Luis, was the only brother Barth had.

“He’s like a father for me,” Barth said. “I lost my father 20 years ago.”

The investigation does not point the finger at first responders but it does at officials who, at least twice, told reporters there were no human sounds coming from underneath the rubble.

“I have no doubt that the officials cared very very much about the victims. I saw it in their faces. I know that they were pained, I understand that. But that’s not justification to lie, or to withhold information or to provide false information,” Rhodes said.

Rescuers did not have a generator close enough or powerful enough to dig her out.

They also lacked the type of saws designed to keep cool while working around flammable material.

The investigation also revealed officials twice told reporters first responders never heard any voices coming from the rubble and never told Valeria’s family about the ongoing search for her.

“For a family that lost three family members, and it’s so heartbreaking, then on top of that, to find out that they were lied to or they were misled,” Rhodes said. “It’s just beyond comprehension. I mean, how much can a family suffer? It’s extremely, extremely troubling.”

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

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