Authorities have identified 16 of the 18 people who have died after the collapse of a 12-story beachfront condominium in Surfside.
Authorities said 145 other people remain unaccounted for as rescuers search through the rubble of Champlain Towers South.
U.S. & World
ANA ORTIZ, LUIS BERMUDEZ and FRANK KLEIMAN
Luis Bermudez, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, had battled muscular dystrophy for years and used a wheelchair. The 26-year-old man lived with his mother, Ana Ortiz, on the seventh floor of the Champlain Towers South. They were identified among the 11 who died after the building collapsed Thursday.
His father, also named Luis Bermudez, texted the AP saying “my son is a hero.” He also wrote on Facebook that he could not believe he’s gone.
“Now rest in peace and without any obstacles in heaven,” he wrote. “I will see you soon my Luiyo.”
In honor of Luis, family members on Monday laid flowers in the ocean at a beach near the site of the building collapse.
Ortiz, 46, had just gotten married to 55-year-old Frankie Kleiman. Alex Garcia, the couple's close friend, told The Miami Herald he had set them up on a blind date.
Officials confirmed Monday that Kleiman was among those confirmed dead.
Kleiman lived with his wife and stepson on the same floor as his brother Jay Kleiman, who was in town for a funeral, and their mother Nancy Kress Levin. Jay Kleiman and Levin are still missing.
Ortiz was described as a woman who was committed to giving her son the best possible life.
“She’s a rock star,” Garcia told the Herald. “And on top of that a super mom.”
MARCUS, ANA, LUCIA and EMMA GUARA
Family members are fearing the worst about a family of four after their patriarch, 52-year-old Marcus Joseph Guara, was confirmed as one of the victims.
His wife, Ana, and his daughters, 10-year-old Lucia and 4-year-old Emma, were identified as three of the victims days later.
"It’s almost, a family’s been erased, and that’s just something, it’s hard to contemplate that, hard to picture that and hard to understand it and believe that, quite frankly, we almost don’t believe it," cousin Peter Milian said.
Guara was born and raised in Miami, attending Christopher Columbus High School and the University of Miami, his cousin said.
Milian said he and family members are in disbelief since learning the news.
"Everybody always talks about, is there closure, you know there is no closure, quite frankly they all feel that a young life was cut too short, he loved his daughters, loved his community," Milian said. "For us, the thought that and the hope that this went as quickly as it appears it did on the video, then hopefully the suffering was minimum and he’s reunited with his father in heaven and he’s with his family."
Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21, was visiting his godfather when the condo tower fell, NBC News reported.
The student at Vanderbilt University was majoring in economics and had three minors. He would have been a senior this fall.
“My son was the strongest person I know and the best part of my day. We had such plans for his future,” his mother, Tina Giannitsopoulos, told NBC News.
LEON and CRISTINA OLIWKOWICZ
Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and his wife Cristina Beatriz de Oliwkowicz, 74, lived on the 8th floor of the condo tower for several years, according to Venezuelan journalist Shirley Varnagy, a close friend of their family.
They were among six Venezuelan natives caught in the building's collapse. Still missing Monday were Moisés Rodán, 28; Andrés Levine, 27; Luis Sadovnik, 28, and his wife, Nicole Langesfeld, Varnagy said.
Varnagy said the Oliwkowicz's daughter had been outside the building waiting for some information about their fate. Her husband answered their phone and asked to be left alone.
The couple's daughter, Mrs. Leah Fouhal, works as a secretary at a Jewish school in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, where the couple donated a Torah in 2019 in a procession that included a vintage fire truck, music and a giant velvet and gold crown, according to COLlive.com, an Orthodox Jewish news outlet that covers Chabad-Lubavitch communities around the world.
Meanwhile, the parents of Rodán, Levine and Sadovnik live in Venezuela and traveled to the U.S. Friday. “Some did not have a visa, others had an expired passport, but with diplomatic collaboration they were able to arrive,” Varnagy said.
Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74, lived on the 8th floor of the condo building with her husband, Leon, for several years, according to a family friend.
Elvira's body was recovered Sunday, officials said.
GLADYS and ANTONIO LOZANO
Sergio Lozano, the son of Gladys and Antonio Lozano, said officials took his DNA, as they did with many of the relatives of those unaccounted for, and later told him they had recovered his parent's bodies.
Lozano said that his parents, who were married for about 68 years, were scared to die without each other.
Antonio Lozano was 83. Gladys Lozano was 79.
Manuel LaFont, 54, lived on the eighth floor of the building and was a father of two, his ex-wife said.
Adrianna LaFont said she drove to the Champlain Towers after the partial collapse to find her ex-husband.
"I see this huge hole and I stopped there and I said 'Oh my God' and I started screaming," she said.
LaFont and his brother, Rey Perez, have the same father and had found each other nine years ago.
"I had him for nine years and I guess God had a different plan for him," Perez said.
Michael David Altman, 50, was confirmed Monday as one of the victims killed in the collapse.
Family members said Altman lived in unit 1101.
Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, was the first victim of the Surfside condominium collapse that was identified. She was the mother of the teen boy who was rescued from the rubble of the building.
Fang passed away shortly after arriving at Aventura Hospital Thursday, not long after the partial collapse, records from the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner showed. She will be laid to rest in New Jersey.
STORIES ABOUT THE MISSING
Among the missing was Linda March, who eagerly traded a cramped New York apartment for fresh air and ocean views after surviving a COVID-19 infection. She even bought a bright pink bicycle to cruise around Miami with, best friend Rochelle Laufer said.
March rented Penthouse 4, and was using the second bedroom of the furnished apartment as her office, Laufer told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Thursday’s partial collapse of the condominium building left the penthouse’s interior exposed, with bunk beds and an office chair still intact just inside the broken edge where the rest of the 12-story structure crumbled into a pile of debris.
Another friend, Dawn Falco, said she had been talking on the phone with March until just two hours before the disaster. Falco said she immediately began searching for word on her friend, who she said never leaves the house “without a smile.”
“My heart is breaking as I see the office chair that she just purchased next to the bunkbeds,” Falco said.
Florida was a new start for the 58-year-old attorney. In the past decade, she’d lost her sister and mother to cancer, her father died a few years later and she and her husband divorced. She had no children.
“She would say to me, ‘I’m all alone. I don’t have family,’ and I would say, ‘You’re my sister, you don’t have to be born sisters. And I said you always have me,’” Laufer recounted through tears.
Laufer said March loved the ocean views but hated the incessant noise from nearby construction and had decided to break her lease. “She was looking for another apartment when this happened,” Laufer said sadly.
Still, Laufer had been planning to visit her friend this fall.
“I joked I’m going to take the top bunk when I visit,” she said.
Argentine Graciela Cattarossi is a beloved mother and friend who works as an independent photographer for hotels, magazines, banks and airlines from different parts of the world, said Kathryn Rooney Vera, a friend who has known Cattarossi since 2008.
The most important thing in her world, however, is her 7-year-old daughter Stella.
Cattarossi, 48, a single mother, lived in Champlain Towers South with Stella and her own parents, Graciela and Gino Cattarossi. All four were missing Monday, along with Cattarossi's sister, Andrea, an architect in Pilar, Argentina, who was visiting.
Vera said Cattarossi is a dedicated mother whose devotion to her child is “unparalleled.” She also described her as a "very hard worker, a beautiful person and beloved by everyone.”
Cattarossi and Vera were exchanging text messages on Wednesday night, just hours before the building collapsed. The photographer took professional photos of Vera’s fourth pregnancy years ago and presented them as a gift to celebrate what they believed would be Vera’s last child.
“She was happy to know that I was pregnant again,” said Vera. “We are devastated by what happened.”
Vera said that Graciela Cattarossi has lived in Miami for decades.
NICOLE LANGESFELD AND LUIS SADOVNIC
Nicole Langesfeld and her husband Luis Sadovnic were just starting their lives together after moving into an apartment on the eighth floor of Champlain Towers South earlier this year after getting married five months ago, her brother Martin Langesfeld told The Associated Press.
Nicole Langesfeld is a commercial litigator whose family is from Argentina, but she was born in the U.S. Sadovnic is from Venezuela, Martin Langesfeld said.
“I know she is fighting,” Martin Langesfeld said of his missing sister.
Nicole Langesfeld, 26, is a bilingual associate in the Miami office of Reed Smith. Her practice focuses on litigating and settling insurance coverage on behalf of policyholders. She was a member of the University of Miami Business Law Review.
Nicky, as she is known to friends and family, loves animals. She has a guinea pig named Kali and two dogs, Capo and Zoey.
Hugh Lumpkin, a partner in the insurance recovery group where Nicole worked, described Langesfeld as a very smart and hard-working lawyer. He said that it is a loss that goes beyond business.
“We are still sad to the bone,” Lumpkin said. “We miss her every minute of every day."
Coworkers said she was always smiling, and after working all day long she used to walk on the beach with her dogs. Last week, she began a fitness challenge of 30 minutes of exercise every day, which she was doing at her balcony.
Noah Goldberg, a coworker, said Langesfeld was very funny and always caring for her friends. On Wednesday, hours before the building collapsed, Goldberg didn’t feel well and Langesfeld called and texted him at 9:45 p.m. to ask how he was feeling.
Ana Barton, one of her colleagues who used to socialize with Langesfeld, said that they still have hope she will be found alive.
“She is a sunshine”, said Barton. “She is the most beautiful person.”
Associated Press Writer Fabiola Sanchez contributed from Caracas, Venezuela.