The Final Victim of Surfside Condo Collapse Has Been Pulled From the Rubble
The remains of Estelle Hedaya were the last to be removed from the ruins of a collapsed Florida condo building.
After four weeks of agony, the family of Estelle Hedaya finally has word that her remains have been found in the twisted wreckage of a collapsed condo complex in Surfside, Florida.
The 54-year-old, who loved life and traveling, was the last victim to be identified from Champlain Towers South, a 13-story beachfront building that gave way on June 24. Hedaya's body was identified Monday, bringing the death toll to 98 and ending a torturous search for the missing.
"She always mentioned God anytime she was struggling with anything," her brother, Ikey Hedaya, told The Associated Press. "She had reached a different level spiritually, which allowed her to excel in all other areas."
Her funeral was scheduled for Tuesday. She lived on the sixth floor.
The disintegration of the condominium complex is now considered one of the deadliest structural collapses in the United States. The rescue efforts were the biggest emergency response not related to hurricanes in Florida's history.
“Nothing we can say or do will bring back these 98 angels, who left behind grieving families, beloved friends, loved ones across this community and across the world,” said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County at a news conference. “But we have done everything possible to bring closure to the families.”
Search teams spent painstaking hours searching the hazardous site, including battling a recurring fire and negotiating an unstable portion of the rubble that teetered above their heads. More than 14,000 tons of concrete and rebar were sifted before the mission was declared complete.
Much of the debris has been transported to a nearby warehouse, where secondary searches continue for the victims' belongings, and for any signs of human remains from those not reported missing.
The future of the site is unclear. Several lawsuits have been filed over the collapse and the judge hearing those cases has said the property should be sold at market rates, which could bring in an estimated $100 million or more. Some condo owners have said they want to rebuild, while others want the land to be used for a memorial to the dead.
The mother of Estelle Hedaya said her family is devastated. Her daughter had moved to Florida to begin a new life and had lost weight a bought a shiny, red car.
“We have no choice but to go on, but I want to give her the respect that she deserves,” Linda Hedaya told The New York Times. “She was my firstborn. I called her my shining star.”
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