A year on, Surfside remembers 98 victims of condo collapse

Jun 23, 2022, 10:16 AM | Updated: Jun 24, 2022, 4:39 pm

First lady Jill Biden, center, leads a round of applause for first responders during a remembrance ...

First lady Jill Biden, center, leads a round of applause for first responders during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)


              First lady Jill Biden, center, leads a round of applause for first responders during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks alongside first lady Jill Biden, second from right, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, right, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Dalia Gutman, cousin of Ilan Naibryf, writes a message in her cousin's memory during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              An attendee at a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, takes a moment as he looks out at the area where the building once stood, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Two attendees gather around a phone before the start of a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a sign dedicated to the 98 people who lost their lives during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              First lady Jill Biden speaks during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Lazaro Carnero mourns for his best friend Edgar Gonzalez, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              First lady Jill Biden, center, leads a round of applause for first responders during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks alongside first lady Jill Biden, second from right, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, right, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Dalia Gutman, cousin of Ilan Naibryf, writes a message in her cousin's memory during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              An attendee at a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, takes a moment as he looks out at the area where the building once stood, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Two attendees gather around a phone before the start of a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a sign dedicated to the 98 people who lost their lives during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              First lady Jill Biden speaks during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Lazaro Carnero mourns for his best friend Edgar Gonzalez, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              First lady Jill Biden, center, leads a round of applause for first responders during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks alongside first lady Jill Biden, second from right, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, right, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Dalia Gutman, cousin of Ilan Naibryf, writes a message in her cousin's memory during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              An attendee at a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, takes a moment as he looks out at the area where the building once stood, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Two attendees gather around a phone before the start of a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a sign dedicated to the 98 people who lost their lives during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              First lady Jill Biden speaks during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Lazaro Carnero mourns for his best friend Edgar Gonzalez, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              First lady Jill Biden, center, leads a round of applause for first responders during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks alongside first lady Jill Biden, second from right, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, right, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Two attendees gather around a phone before the start of a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a sign dedicated to the 98 people who lost their lives during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              First lady Jill Biden speaks during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
            
              FILE - Ronit Naibryf, right, shows Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levina Cava, the name of her son Ilan Naibryf on May 12, 2022, in Surfside, Fla., on a large banner with the names of the 98 people killed in the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history.(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)
            
              FILE - Neil Handler speaks about how his son Jonah was trapped inside a pocket of fallen concrete after the Surfside, Fla., condo collapse, as he speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Bal Harbour, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
            
              FILE - Well-wishers visit a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse, as they gather for a multi-faith vigil near the site where the building once stood on July 15, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
            
              FILE - Artificial flowers are shown on a fence on June 21, 2022, surrounding the site where the Champlain Towers South collapsed killing 98 people last year in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
            
              FILE - Search and rescue personnel work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of people remain missing after it partially collapsed the week before June 30, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Friday, June 24, 2022, marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — A year ago in the middle of the night, a 12-story oceanfront condo building in Surfside, Florida, came down with a thunderous roar, leaving a giant pile of rubble and claiming 98 lives — one of the deadliest structure collapses in U.S. history.

The names of each victim were read aloud during a ceremony Friday to mark the somber anniversary, attended by political figures, first responders and family members of those who died at Champlain Towers South on June 24, 2021.

The ceremony came a day after a state judge approved one of the largest class action settlements of its kind: more than $1 billion to compensate victims’ families and survivors.

“Exactly 365 days ago, my house imploded, my home collapsed with everything and everyone inside but me. I am alive, and I have the chance to rediscover something that motivates me to smile again, to fight, to be a whole person,” said Raquel Oliveira, whose husband and 5-year-old son died in the collapse while she was visiting her mother.

“Let’s not give up on justice, love, gratitude, forgiveness. Let’s not give up life. We have not come this far just to come this far,” she added.

The disaster, the largest non-hurricane emergency response in Florida history, drew rescue crews from across the U.S. and as far away as Israel to help local teams search for victims. They were honored Friday for their difficult work.

Before the public ceremony organized by the town of Surfside, there was a private torch-lighting at the time — about 1:25 a.m. — when the 136-unit condominium building fell a year ago.

First Lady Jill Biden was among speakers at the public event that also included Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“We stand by you today and always,” Biden said during comments briefly interrupted by a standing ovation when she mentioned the firefighters “who spent weeks working to recover your loved ones.”

“If there is something strong enough to help us carry this burden of grief forward, something to break its gravitational pull, it’s love,” Biden said.

DeSantis, a Republican, recalled how he was awakened at 3 a.m. the day the building fell and increasingly realized the immense scope of the disaster as he traveled to Surfside. He thanked first responders and noted that the state budget he recently signed contains $1 million for a memorial to the 98 people lost.

“We are not going to forget what they meant to this community,” the governor said.

There was an effort by many victims and family members to install a memorial at the site where the building once stood, but the land is being sold for $120 million to a Dubai developer and a memorial will likely be created nearby.

Only two teenagers and a woman survived the collapse, while others escaped from the portion of the building that initially remained standing. Images of one survivor’s rescue traveled widely, offering a glimmer of hope right after the collapse, but the long, grueling search produced mostly devastating results as families waited only to learn about the remains of their lovedones.

Those lost in the collapse included two sisters, 4 and 11, who were so tiny that they were buried in the same casket.

Lyla Thurber, 12, attended the ceremony with her family, who wore white T-shirts with photos of the young sisters with their parents. She was close friends in school with the older sister, Lucia.

“She was happy, always smiling and playing,” she said. “I wanted to come here and talk to people so they could learn more about her.”

Luis Bermudez, who lost his 26-year-old son, also named Luis, wept often as he spoke in celebration of his son, who he said taught people, himself included, to live without fear and without limits.

“God needed a special angel to help him and you were chosen,” Bermudez said, and at the end held up large photographs of his son in each hand.

The cause of the collapse remains under investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with the probe entering a new phase this month to cut and drill into concrete and steel. Champlain Towers South had a long history of maintenance problems, and shoddy construction techniques were used in the early 1980s. Other possible factors include sea level rise caused by climate change and damage caused by saltwater intrusion.

Pablo Langesfeld, the father of a 26-year-old lawyer who had married and moved to the building a few months before the collapse, said that for him closure will not come until that investigation is completed.

“This is a nightmare that never ends,” Langesfeld said.

Although the investigation is expected to take years, a judge has been given credit for finalizing the compensation settlement, in less than a year.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman praised the dozens of lawyers involved, and a woman who lost her daughter called the judge and attorneys heroes in black robes and business suits.

Hanzman said the compensation deal was extraordinary in its scope and speed. Checks for victims could begin going out in September.

“This settlement is the best we can do. It’s a remarkable result,” he said.

Still, the wounds are still fresh for the hundreds of people who lost loved ones a year ago.

“Our family lost everything,” said Kevin Spiegel, whose wife Judy died while he was traveling on business. “One year later, time has not healed my broken heart.”

___

Anderson reported from St. Petersburg.

___

The spelling of Raquel Oliveira’s name has been corrected in this story.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Washington gun restrictions...

Associated Press

Judge rejects attempt to block new Washington state gun restrictions

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request to block a new Washington state law banning the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles

1 day ago

FILE - A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference, April 28, 2015,...

Associated Press

Microsoft will pay $20M to settle U.S. charges of illegally collecting children’s data

Microsoft will pay a fine of $20 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it illegally collected and retained the data of children

1 day ago

FILE - OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman gestures while speaking at University College London as part of his ...

Associated Press

OpenAI boss ‘heartened’ by talks with world leaders over will to contain AI risks

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said Monday he was encouraged by a desire shown by world leaders to contain any risks posed by the artificial intelligence technology his company and others are developing.

2 days ago

FILE - The draft of a bill that President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., neg...

Associated Press

Debt deal imposes new work requirements for food aid and that frustrates many Democrats

Democrats are deeply conflicted about the debt ceiling deal, fearing damage has been done to safety net programs

3 days ago

Seattle lawyer...

Associated Press

Lawsuit alleging ex-deputy falsified arrest report settled for $250K

A lawsuit filed by a Washington oyster farmer accusing a former county deputy of falsifying an arrest report

3 days ago

Mt. Rainier death...

Associated Press

Washington man climbing Mount Rainier dies near summit

A Washington state man who was trying to summit Mount Rainier this week collapsed and died near the top of the mountain.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

A year on, Surfside remembers 98 victims of condo collapse