Final Surfside death toll lands at 98

Surfside Champlain Towers collapse memorial
Surfside Champlain Towers collapse memorial
Felix Mizioznikov via Shutterstock

Update (8:10 a.m. July 27): Police identified the final victim of the collapse, Estelle Hedaya, bringing the death toll to 98. 

“Together, I pray we can begin the long process of healing,” Miami-Dade Mayor Danielle Levine Cava told reporters at a press conference.

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Following a month of excruciating work, Surfside recovery efforts ended Friday for the local fire department.

The June 24 early-morning collapse at the 12-story oceanside Champlain Towers South condo killed 97 people. The family of Estelle Hedaya, 54, claims she is the final victim as police continue to search through debris.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) is transitioning the search and recovery effort to the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s office.

“The operation is ongoing, and MDPD is continuing to search the debris pile both for human remains and for personal items until they have completed a full additional search of the debris,” the mayor said in a press release.

Much like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which caused mass devastation in Florida and led to new laws upgrading building codes, the Surfside tragedy is also expected to bring heightened awareness and regulations for inspecting older, multi-level structures. Warnings had gone unheeded about Champlain Towers South, which opened in 1981, after a 2018 engineering report detailed degrading and cracked support beams in the underground parking garage.

Another wrinkle in the aftermath of the collapse is what will happen with the long-term future of the property, which is valued at an estimated $100 million. Some want a memorial on the site to honor the victims—similar to those at New York’s Twin Towers site and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing site. Others think a new building should be erected with the funds of the property sale going to compensating the victim’s families.

Gainesville Fire Rescue deployed a team to help with the recovery efforts in Surfside. They returned after a week of what they described as long, hot, wet work.

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