More bodies found in Florida condo collapse, bringing death toll to 79

The day after crews at the site of a massive condo building collapse solemnly transitioned from a rescue to a recovery mission, the death toll rose to 79 confirmed victims after the discovery of more than a dozen bodies.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday evening 61 people remain potentially unaccounted for. Of the 79 confirmed deaths, 53 have been identified.

In a “small piece of good news,” Levine Cava said a cat living on the building’s 9th floor was recently found and reunited with its family. 

Miami-Dade police released the names of eight additional victims Friday afternoon. Among them was Sophia López Moreira, the sister of the first lady of Paraguay, as well as Moreira’s husband, Luis Pettengill, and 3-year-old Luis Lopez Moreira III, one of their three children.

Despite a somber change in mission from rescuing survivors to recovering remains, crews continued to work around-the-clock.

“The pile that was originally at four or five stories is now almost at ground level,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, adding that he was impressed by the recent progress of the efforts.

Burkett added that on-site teams have also developed a procedure for collecting and returning personal items found amid the rubble.

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Levine Cava said the recovery mission is “moving forward with great urgency” to bring families news and closure as quickly as they can. More than 13 million pounds of concrete and debris have been removed from the site as of Friday, Levine Cava said.

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Miami-​Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said Friday two crew members suffered injuries while working. One was “cardiac in nature” while the other injury was a laceration that required stitches, he said. Both crew members received medical attention and are in stable condition.

Ahead of transitioning from a rescue to recovery mission, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told families that officials concluded it would be nearly impossible to find people alive.

“Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” he said, adding that there was “no chance of life.”

Cominsky said Thursday he expects the search for human remains will take several more weeks.

Training condo association boards:Florida has been diverting millions of dollars in condo fees for years

Meanwhile, the condo collapse continues to garner greater scrutiny of the inner workings of condo owners associations, including training for association members.

USA TODAY Network reporting revealed the state of Florida collected $13.7 million in fees in 2020 from condominium owners associations, vacation timeshares and mobile home parks.

But the money wasn’t used for its intended purpose — including training condo associations about things like maintenance. Instead, Florida’s legislature swept $5 million of it into the state’s general fund in a practice that some legislators are questioning in the wake of the building collapse.

Contributing: Clayton Park and Jeffrey Schweers, The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

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