(Trends Wide Spanish) — A section of the Champlain Towers South condominium building collapsed on June 24, 2021 while many residents slept, an as-yet-unexplained tragedy that shattered the small community of Surfside near Miami.
The 98 victims of the tragedy ranged in age from 1 to 92, and came from all over the world, from members of a close-knit Jewish community, as well as families from as far away as Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia.
An 11-page memo released in April 2022 by the Miami-Dade Fire Department offered new details about the agonizing hours and days in which family members, rescue teams and city officials hoped to find survivors. in the pile of smashed air conditioners, razor-sharp metal bars, and shattered concrete walls and balconies.
During the first five hours, the memo says, rescuers extricated trapped survivors from balconies, stairways and parking lots. Ultimately, they rescued a total of 37 survivors.
Airbag lifts, hydraulic tools, pneumatic shoring devices and other instruments were also used to rescue four survivors trapped under debris, according to the memo. However, one survivor later died of his injuries.
These are the testimonies of some survivors of the partial collapse of the building in Surfside.
Leana Monteagudo, a woman of Cuban origin, assures that she was saved by a miracle. “If I have been in my apartment and I calculate that it would be one o’clock in the morning, in the morning, and I was half asleep, worried because I had to get up early and when I have to get up early I sleep badly thinking that I have to wake up early,” he said.
“I was, I would tell you that I was asleep, and something woke me up. It was like a very strong force that woke me up and told me something is wrong here. When I open my eyes like that, I feel a crack,” Monteagudo says that after hearing the noises he went out to check if the balcony door was open and after checking his apartment he noticed a crack that was opening in the ceiling.
“Inside. They told me. Get out of here, this thing will fall,” Monteagudo said as he quickly changed his clothes, took his wallet, cell phone and other belongings and left the apartment.
“I had no idea where the ladder was because […] very little time in the building and I had not dedicated myself because I felt confident in this building. A super elitist building, super strong, that you said this, not even a bomb knocks it down, “he continued.
“I went downstairs screaming asking Jehovah God. Please, Jehovah, protect me. Help me get downstairs. I want to see my children. I want to see my grandchildren. I don’t want to die,” Monteagudo said that when he was in the room he stepped on , she lived on the sixth floor, heard a noise so loud she knew the building had collapsed.
“I was waiting for the building to collapse completely,” Monteagudo said, indicating that one of his greatest fears was that the debris would block the door to the stairs and prevent him from escaping. “These were the most terrible and most horrible moments that I have ever had in my entire life. I managed, blessed God, to get downstairs, to open, that nothing interrupted my door.”
Nicolas Vazquez and Gimena Accardi
A couple of Argentine actors who were staying in the collapsed building in Surfside, Florida, managed to escape minutes before the building collapsed.
“We came from dinner, I parked the car as usual, in the garage. We heard a very, very, very loud noise, but we couldn’t understand what was happening,” Nicolás Vázquez told Trends Wide.
“In a difference of six, seven seconds that we got into the elevator, the elevator moved, stopping in the lobby, as always, and a very strong cloud of dust started, a very strong noise, as if it were, we did not understand what was happening. We did not understand what it was , a tornado, an attack, the closest thing to something that is a movie. We started to run. Between two or three more minutes pass of not understanding well in a state of shock what we were experiencing, “explained Vázquez, who told the people who met and their partner, Gimena Accardi, who had to cross.
“There was a noise that was impossible to describe because we had never heard it in our lives. It was like in the movies, as if it were some kind of earthquake, an attack, I don’t know, what you see in the images. We don’t We saw a lot, but there is an image that shows how the building falls at that moment. We were not aware of what was happening, “he explained.
Esther Gorfinkel, 88, told Trends Wide affiliate WPLG that she had been living in Champlain Towers for more than 40 years when her fifth-floor apartment started shaking in the early hours of June 24.
“Who would have thought that something like this would happen at 1:30 in the morning? In your life? That in my old age I would see something as horrible as this?” said Gorfinkel, who said he was in his nightgown when he went to see what was going on. He put on a robe and slowly made his way to the garage, when his neighbors gave him relief. that they needed so much.
“They pushed me and we went into the water,” Gorfinkel said. “And then they push me and push me and push me. There was a lot of debris and we saw a hole that can be seen outside. I was pushed. They picked me up. I saw the sky. I knew I would be safe.”
One of those neighbors was Justin Willis, who told Trends Wide’s Wolf Blitzer that helping Gorfinkel distracted him from the situation. “(We) tried to help her get out of it as quickly as possible, because if she didn’t get out of it, we wouldn’t get out of it,” Willis said.
Willis and his father helped Gorfinkel jump over a collapsing wall into the garage and then onto the pool deck to safety. “Once we get to that, we all start to breathe a sigh of relief,” he said. “You feel safe, once you see the beach and get in the sand, you count your blessings.”
Gorfinkel said she remembered the entire encounter and is very grateful for her neighbors’ help, but is devastated by what she left behind.
“My heart is broken,” he said. “Let me tell you. I have (a) friend on the third floor with her husband. I don’t see them anymore.”
“The photos of my wedding… The photos of my mother’s wedding… The photos of my children’s wedding. Do you know how many photo albums I have? It’s all there.”
“I was in the apartment with my family. My wife and I were sleeping, my children were awake watching Netflix. When we felt a very big noise. We did not know at that point what it was. My wife jumped and went to see the children “Everyone was fine, but the hanging lights were going from side to side. So at that point they said ‘Hey, this is big, we have to get out,'” Alberto Aguero, a resident of the Champlain Towers building in Surfside, told Trends Wide. Florida.
“When the firemen arrived, I went out to the balcony and yelled at them that we had to evacuate. They said yes. We immediately left with the phone and wallet, nothing else. When I open the door to the apartment, I look to the left and the apartment of the neighbors was already cut in half,” Aguero explained and indicated that when he opened the door to the stairs to go down and be able to leave the building, he saw that a wall was missing from the stairs.
“When we got to the third floor we met an 88-year-old woman and my son and I took her down to the first floor, but when we got to the first floor the water was already rising. We had to jump about three feet [0,9 metros] of concrete that had already fallen.
Aguero told Trends Wide it wasn’t until they got to the pool area that they felt safe. “We already knew that we can more or less breathe and take a moment to express that I don’t know how we survived, but God gave us a second chance,” he explained.
“I went to take a shower, I got out of the shower and dried off and I was about to get dressed and then I heard a…a loud boom. I just grabbed my robe and a towel and ran out. I left everything in the apartment, my phone , my wallet. I just ran out because I thought the whole roof, and the whole building was about to collapse,” said Conie, one of the survivors of the Miami building collapse.
“And then, I see… I saw that slowly approaching me in the apartment and I said to myself: I have to get out of here and I ran. I met my family and they told me, come on, come on, come on… we have to get out of here,” Conie explained how she managed to escape with her family as the building shook. “We were the first people out and we saw another family that had just arrived and they said they got out of the elevator and they heard the elevator go boom, boom, boom,” she concluded.
Trends Wide’s Jason Hanna, Gregory Lemos, Hollie Silverman, Lauren M. Johnson, Amir Vera, Deanna Hackney, Madeline Holcombe, Ray Sanchez and Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.