Surfside condo collapse: Miami firefighter's search for missing daughter, 7, ends in heartbreak
Update: Family members identified the girl as Stella, the daughter of Graciela Cattarossi, who lives in the building with her parents, Gino and Graciela Sr. The three adults remain missing.
As the search and rescue operations at the Surfside Miami Condo collapse resume, a Miami firefighter working at the site recovered the remains of his own child, officials reported on Friday, July 2. The firefighter's 7-year-old daughter's body was found in the rubble. The death count has reached 20 as per the latest reports, while around 128 people are still unaccounted for.
According to reports, the grieving father wrapped his child's body in his jacket and placed a small US flag on the gurney. The victim's uncle was also among the rescuers. The discovery was made late Thursday evening on July 1 by members of the Urban Search and Rescue Team. Police and rescue officials refused to identify the firefighter or the dead child.
According to the Miami Herald, the distraught dad kept vigil for eight nights after his daughter’s home came crashing down in the collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside. It was reportedly an emotional scene.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava spoke of the incident on Friday and said, "It goes without saying that every night since this last Wednesday has been immensely difficult for everybody, and particularly the families that have been impacted." She added, "But last night was uniquely different. These men and women are paying an enormous human toll each and every day.” Cops and firefighters lined a road near the building site as the dad, his brother and other first responders took the body off the pile, reports say.
Miami Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Zahralban said, "We can confirm that a member of our City of Miami Fire Department family has lost his 7-year-old daughter in the collapse. She was recovered last night by members of our Urban Search and Rescue Team, Florida Task Force 2.” Zahralban further added, "We ask that you respect the privacy of the immediate family as well as our fire department family while we grieve our loss and support our own,” he said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addressed the incident during the briefing, saying that “these are tough things” for the workers to deal with. "Obviously we focus on the families and rightfully so, but our folks have gone through a lot that are out there, " the governor said.