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Final Missing Person in Surfside Collapse Identified

For nearly two weeks, the grueling search through a massive pile of debris was called a search and rescue effort, giving loved ones of the missing an ever-shrinking shred of hope that a survivor might be found under the collapsed Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida. But the last time a person was found with a pulse was hours after half the building flattened early June 24th. Officials hoped demolishing the other half of the building on July 4th would allow crews to search more safely and efficiently for survivors. But on the evening of July 7th, officials said what families had known for days but dreaded hearing — the chance of finding anyone alive was “no longer possible.”

On Monday, the identification of the 98th victim in the collapse has brought the painstaking process of searching for missing people to a close.

At a press conference on Monday, Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that the final missing person’s family had been notified following the identification of the individual’s remains, formally ending the search.

The remains belonged to Estelle Hedaya, 54, according to a statement from the Miami-Dade Police. Hedaya was the only victim left unrecovered when firefighters concluded their search for bodies Friday as, nearly a month after the collapse, the stories-high debris pile was cleared so that the building’s entire foundation was exposed. Officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department were left to continue the work looking for remains and personal items.

Miami-Dade County officials said investigators eventually determined that 97 people were reported missing in the collapse. An additional victim who died in the hospital was never reported missing. Mayor Levine Cava said Miami-Dade police would continue sorting through the evidentiary pile to “be sure that all identifiable human remains are recovered,” adding that search and rescue officials did everything possible to bring closure to the families.

“Nothing we can say or do can bring back these 98 angels,” Mayor Levine Cava said, “who left behind grieving families, beloved friends, and loved ones across this community and across the world.”



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