Husbands and daughters of victims killed in Surfside condo collapse speak

Reporter: Michael Hudak
Published: Updated:

It’s been one year since the horrific events that unfolded on June 24, 2021, when the Champlain Tower South condominium in Surfside collapsed, killing 98 people.

WINK News was there shortly after it happened to bring you the personal stories of tragedy and hope from those impacted.

Now, we talk with some of the many husbands, and daughters that lost loved ones one year ago.

Husbands of Surfside

There were many people who lived in the Champlain Towers in Surfside who were not there at the time of the collapse, whether out of town on business trips or visiting family.

That includes three men who all lost their wives on June 24, one a year ago.

When two people exchange vows at their wedding, the famous words are, “Until death do us part.”

But these men say that’s just not true, these husbands will never part from the love of their life, even after death.

Elena Blasser, the wife of Joseph Blasser Sr. died in collapse while he was in Panama.

Mike Stratton said he was on the phone with his wife Cassie Stratton when the condo collapsed.

June 24, 2021, will haunt Stratton for the rest of his life. He was out of town on a business trip as the Champlain Towers South began to give way. His wife Cassie, who was in their apartment on the fourth floor called him.

Mike Stratton pictured with his wife Cassie Stratton, who died in the Surfside condo collapse. (Credit: WINK News)

“She called me up,” Stratton. “And she said ‘I think there’s an earthquake. And she looked out the balcony, and the pool area had kind of sinkholed. And then the building started to shake and rattle. She screamed and then the phone went dead.”

Cassie was 40 years old. Her husband, Mike is only one of the husbands we met who left town before the collapse, never to see their wives again.

Blasser was in Panama that day visiting family.

He was married to Elena for more than two decades. She was a woman who escaped Fidel Castro’s reign in Cuba when she was just a little girl.

“It’s been the worst year of my life,” Blasser said. “My life completely is a different life. I was very happily married with my wife. We were together for 26 years.”

It will never be until death do us part 
for these husbands, like Kevin Spiegel.

We asked Spiegel if he could pick up the phone and talk to his wife Judy, what would he say?

His response; “Just fall apart. You know? Sometimes at night, I’ll sit and talk to her.”

Even death could never make them part.

Mothers of Surfside

Judy Spiegel was not just Rachel Spiegel’s mom. Rachel said, “My mom was my person. You know. She was the person I like shared everything with.”

Judy was also not just Kevin Spiegel’s wife. “‘You know, we never fought.’ Everyone’s like what do you mean? We just didn’t. We were best friends!” Kevin explained. “A mother is the lifeline of a family, and without her, the pulse goes flat.”

He said, “It’s not the same. It’s absolutely not the same. It’s not the same for Rachel. It’s not the same for Michael. It’s not the same for George. For Sloane for Scarlet, I mean life for us is not the same. This has been the worst year of our life.”

Judy Spiegel was 65 years old when she died in the Surfside condo collapse, and she wasn’t just a mother. She was a grandmother leaving behind three beautiful little girls who she won’t be able to hug at their graduations or embrace at their weddings.

Judy Spiegel and husband Kevin together. (CREDIT: WINK News)

For Sergio Lozano, his mother Gladys and father Antonio, were more than just parents, they were both his heroes, 
but mom will always have a special place in his heart.

“It was a forever love story.” Lozano said. “They were migrants from Cuba. They knew each other for over 68 years. They met at age 12. While my dad got out of cuba, before getting married, he asked for political asylum here. He saved up money and sent for my mom. My mom came with her wedding dress on, because when you would leave from Cuba, they would take your things. So that they wouldn’t take her wedding dress, she wore it on the plane to get over here.”

These are just some of the many stories from families of victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse. A reminder never to take a day with your loved ones for granted.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

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