Three youngest victims of Surfside collapse discovered as mayor says it is getting too hard to identify remains

Official death toll now stands at 94 with 22 people still unaccounted for

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Monday 12 July 2021 19:45

Israeli rescue team returning home from Florida

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Three of the youngest victims of the Surfside condo collapse have been discovered as the mayor says it is getting too hard to identify any remains found by search teams.

Ten more victims of the horrifying building collapse, including children aged five, six and nine, have been identified, according to Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

It takes the officials death toll of the tragedy to 94, with 83 bodies identified, while 22 remain unaccounted for, authorities said on Monday.

Searchers discovered the body of five-year-old Lorenzo De Oliveira Leone along with his 48-year-old father Alfredo.

They also found and identified the bodies of six-year-old Anna Sophia Pettengill Lopez Moreira, and nine-year-old Alexia Maria Pettengill Lopez Moreira.

The youngsters are the daughters of Sophia Lopez Moreira, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady, who died in the collapse, along with the rest of her family.

Last week officials identified her, along with her three-year-old son, Luis Vicente Pettengill Lopez Moreira III, her husband Luis Pettengill, and housekeeper Leidy Vanessa Luna Villalba.

The other victims named were Richard Augustine, 77; Edgar Gonzalez, 42; Luis Sadovnic, 28; Maria Gabriela Camou Font, 64; Julio Cesar Velasquez, 66; and Maria Torre, 76.

Ms Levine Cava said that teams were working to identify those killed in the collapse, but that “the process of making identifications has become more difficult as time goes on”.

“At this step of the recovery process we must rely heavily on the work of the medical examiner’s office,” she added.

“They are undertaking technical and scientific processes to identify the human remains. The process is very methodical, careful and it does take time.”

Official say they hope to complete their recovery operation within two to three weeks.

Four teams from Indiana, Florida, and Pennsylvania are still involved in the recovery effort, while others from Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey are set to return home.

An Israeli search and rescue team, which flew to Florida immediately after the 24 June collapse, also returned home on Sunday after playing a central role in the rescue effort.

Surfside mayor Charles Burkett said that the teams at Champlain Towers South have now reached the parking garage level in several locations and have started removing cars.

“Those vehicles are mostly terribly damaged, evidencing the violence of the collapse,” said Mr Burkett.

And he added that extra security measures were now being put into place at the site of the collapse, with only authorised personnel granted access.

“It is the right thing to do because it is obvious that this has become more than a collapsed building site, it’s a holy site,” he added.

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