September 18, 2021

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‘Something that lives with all of us forever:’ Final victim of Surfside condo collapse identified; Death toll at 98 – USA TODAY

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More than a month after a horrifying condo building collapse in Surfside, Fla., authorities have identified the last victim’s remains. 

Estelle Hedaya, 54, was identified Monday. Her younger brother, Ikey Hedaya, confirmed the news to The Associated Press.

A total of 98 people were killed June 24 when the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium crashed to the ground. Ninety-seven bodies were pulled from the debris and one died at a hospital. County officials accounted for 242 people who had lived in the complex. 

Firefighters Friday declared the end of their search for bodies at the site, continuing the investigation of the debris now stored at a Miami warehouse. 

Remembering those who diedin the Champlain Towers condo collapse in Surfside, Florida

Hedaya was called a “fun-loving person” by a friend of nearly three decades, Sharona Abadi. 

“She was a person who loved life,” Abadi told the Palm Beach Post. “You can put her into a room, and she’ll be the type that just makes friends. She was the life of the party.”

Hedaya moved from New York to Surfside about five years ago after landing a job at a jewelry company. A mutual friend last spoke to her around 11 p.m. June 23, Abadi said.

On the day of the collapse, Abadi volunteered at the Skylake Synagogue and The Shul, doing everything she could to help comfort families awaiting word of their loved ones.

When she returned to her Aventura home that night and turned on the 11 p.m. news, she saw a familiar sight: Her friend’s balcony, from where Hedaya would often share photos.

“Estelle please tell me you’re not in Champlain South. We are worried for you,” Abadi texted. 

Hedaya’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.

On Friday, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky recognized the grueling work of the firefighters who have worked in 12-hour shifts in the past four weeks. Search crews battled through heat, lightning storms and a recurring fire to remove more than 14,000 tons of broken concrete and rebar, often working boulder by boulder and rock by rock

“It’s obviously devastating. It’s obviously a difficult situation across the board,” Cominsky said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the men and women that represent Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.”

‘Their rights will be protected’: Florida condo collapse victims will receive $150M to start, judge says

Except for the initial hours after the collapse, no more people had been found alive. Rescue efforts turned into recovery efforts July 7. 

During a news conference Monday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the Surfside collapse was the largest non-hurricane-related response in the history of Florida.

“The tragedy at Surfside will be something that lives with all of us forever,” she said. “It’s also my hope that through this tragedy, the bonds we’ve built will grow stronger.”

Contributing: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; Hannah Morse, Palm Beach Post; Associated Press

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