Surfside condo collapse live updates: Death toll now at 54; no more search and rescue

·8 min read

Rescue crews continue to search through the rubble for bodies, not survivors, at the 12-story oceanfront condo tower that partially collapsed in Surfside, immediately north of Miami Beach. The rest of Champlain Towers South was demolished Sunday night.

People with loved ones at the condo, missing or safe, should call 305-614-1819 to notify officials. Anyone who lives at the Champlain Towers and is safe is asked to complete a Wellness Check form to help Miami-Dade County keep track of tenants.

Here’s what we know so far...

Another victim identified in Surfside collapse: She was a former Gatorette

8:50 p.m.: Another person pulled from the rubble of Champlain Towers South was identified by Miami-Dade police Wednesday night.

Elaine Lia Sabino, 71, was recovered on Tuesday, police said.

Sabino was a Florida native who lived in the penthouse on the 12th floor with Richard Augustine, 77, who has not been found yet.

She flew across the country with platinum blonde hair and bright pink lipstick, an iconic look for her. She spent years working as a flight attendant with US Airways and Jet Blue.

When she was younger, Sabino attended the University of Florida and was a baton twirler on the Gatorette team.

Her best friend Shelly Angie said Sabino loved staying active and used to dance.

“The main thing people know about Elaine is she’s always there to give you a hand in everything you’re doing,” she said.

Read more about her here.

Elaine Sabino is still missing after the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, FL.
Elaine Sabino is still missing after the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, FL.

Death toll rises to 54, 86 people still missing

8 p.m.: The death toll in the Surfside collapse now stands at 54 after 18 victims were pulled from the rubble Wednesday — the most found in any 12-hour or 24-period. Four of the victims identified Wednesday were engineer Simon Segal, 80, Elaine Sabino, 71, and Graciela and Gino Cattarossi, whose daughter and 7-year-old granddaughter also died in the collapse. Their other daughter, Andrea, is still missing.

There are still 86 people missing in the rubble, and while several of the nine search grid sections have been “de-layered,” there are still other areas to be cleared.

The number of people unaccounted for has fluctuated as detectives try to verify the names of the missing victims, notify family and confirm who was and was not in the building at the time of the collapse.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue official tells families it’s now a recovery mission

4:50 p.m.: Fire authorities said Wednesday there is no longer hope that there are any survivors of the June 24 Surfside collapse and that they will transition their rescue mission to a search-and-recovery operation.

Miami-Dade Fire Chief of Operations Ray Jaddallah told families of those still unaccounted for in the collapse during a private briefing that the change was “some of the hardest news I’ve ever had to deliver in my professional career.”

“It has been determined that we are going to transition from search and rescue to search and recovery this evening,” Jadallah said.

— Martin Vassolo

‘I think this building had problems from the start’

2:30 p.m.: Wednesday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis danced around the idea of state action to address any concerns of current condominium high rise residents — and their future potential buyers — about the safety of those residential towers he called “kind of a dime a dozen particularly in South Florida.”

DeSantis has spent most of the last two weeks in Surfside at the site of the Champlain Towers South tragedy.

“I can just say, just having talked with people who’ve been on the scene — people who’ve done stuff — I think this building had problems from the start, let’s just put it that way,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about it, but, at the same time, if there is something identified that would have implications broader than the Champlain Towers, then, obviously, we’re going to take that and act as appropriate.”

Read the full story of Gov. DeSantis Wednesday remarks.

— Mary Ellen Klas

The latest victims identified: a former diplomat, her husband, an FIU graduate

1:05 p.m.: Miami-Dade police said three of the people found Tuesday were former Uruguayan diplomat Graciella Catarossi, 86; her husband, Gino Catarossi, 89; and penthouse resident Simon Segal, 80.

The Catarossis’ daughter, also named Graciella, and their 7-year-old granddaughter, Stella, also died in the June 24 collapse.

Segal, the resident of No. 1203, was an engineer with degrees from Cornell University (bachelors in civil engineering, 1965) and FIU (Masters of Science in Management, Finance and Master of Business Administration, each having to do with construction), according to his resume.

State records say from 1973 though 2011, he ran S&S Investments, Siber, Simar Corporation of America, Flacondes and Florida Real Estate of Miami.

Simon Segal, 80, is an engineer who lived in the penthouse of Champlain Towers South. He’s among the more than 100 people missing after the Surfside condo collapsed on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Simon Segal, 80, is an engineer who lived in the penthouse of Champlain Towers South. He’s among the more than 100 people missing after the Surfside condo collapsed on Thursday, June 24, 2021.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Fire Chief is no spin doctor

11:35 a.m. The unvarnished parts of the twice daily media briefings start when Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Fire Chief Alan Cominsky comes to the microphone to answer questions. Anybody who paid attention to Cominsky from the first days after the tragedy will not be surprised at the steady beat of tough news.

Asked Wednesday if there was any evidence the victims that rescue workers had recovered actually survived the initial collapse, Cominsky said, “No.”

A tearful update from the Miami-Dade Mayor

11:25 a.m.: On the 14th morning after the Champlain Towers South collapse, during another media briefing after another meeting with families and after having to say another 10 victims were found, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s emotions demanded to be heard and seen.

They pushed Levine Cava’s voice aside repeatedly as she spoke about the first responders who, she said, formed bonds with the families they updated twice daily, counseled and consoled.

“Our first responders have searched that pile every single day as if they’re searching for their own loved ones,” Levine Cava said. “I just came from greeting the team that’s going out at noon. Our Miami-Dade County Task Force One members who’ve been here since the beginning. they could go home, but they’re still here.

“We’re so grateful to these everyday heroes. They’re superheroes. We’ve called upon them to do something extraordinary and I am in endless awe of their grace, their passion, their dedication.”

Two sentences into giving the morning update in Spanish, the mayor’s feelings surged via tears that accompanied her saying once again how many victims had been found, how many people now were accounted for (200) and how many weren’t accounted for (94).

When she finished, she went behind the line of standing officials that’s been behind the podium for the media briefings to let it all out some more, then returned later to answer media questions.

Read the full story from Wednesday morning’s media briefing here.

New Miami-Dade mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, in global spotlight after Surfside collapse

Tragedy’s death toll now at 46

9:40 a.m.: Ten more victims and additional human remains were found overnight in the rubble of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South, Miami-Dade Fire Chief of Operations Ray Jadallah told families in a private briefing Wednesday.

The death toll in the Surfside building collapse now stands at 46 as of Wednesday morning, he said, adding that families of 32 of the victims have been notified. Since the demolition of the remaining part of the building Sunday night, 22 victims have been recovered from the rubble.

Levine Cava said later this means 200 people are accounted for and 94 are not accounted for since the collapse.

Rescuers now have greater access to formerly unreachable layers beneath the concrete and steel debris, officials said. But Jadallah said Wednesday that rescuers equipped with cameras have yet to identify any voids, or spaces, in the rubble during initial searches of the new areas.

“It is compacted. It doesn’t appear that the areas we were able to locate have shown any voids,” he said.

Rescuers will continue searching the new areas, along with the rest of the rubble pile, he added. As of Tuesday, 109 people are still unaccounted for since the partial collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo on June 24, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday afternoon at a news briefing.

“Remember that we’ve been in a search and rescue since Day One,” Jadallah told the families Wednesday. “We haven’t transitioned. “

-- Martin Vassolo

Trying to get back to something resembling normalcy in Surfside

9:35 a.m.: Near the collapse site on Wednesday morning, command centers teemed with emergency officials clutching coffees as a handful of reporters awaited the 11 a.m. news briefing. The pace for search and recovery crews appears to have picked up since the remaining portion of the partially collapsed building was torn down on Sunday evening.

Nearly two weeks out from the collapse, life was still upended in Surfside, though residents and town officials have been drifting back toward some normal business.

Permitting and code compliance officials conducted business with a couple of residents shortly after Town Hall opened at 9 a.m., offering suggestions on how to hold large gatherings with traffic disrupted and beach access intermittent.

Across Collins Avenue, it was mostly police officers and volunteers at the community center, where loved ones first registered the status of missing persons in the frenetic aftermath of the collapse. A Miami-Dade County victim’s advocate picked through snacks laid out on a plastic table and took them away in a grocery bag, but hardly anyone came or went from what was once the center of confusion following the disaster.

— Ben Conarck

‘I have nothing of my parents.’ Survivors reflect after Surfside tower is demolished.

Mother, son among latest Surfside condo collapse victims identified. Death toll reaches 36