Authorities identify woman trapped in rubble

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue released a report late Monday identifying a woman trapped under the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Florida, as Theresa Velasquez.

This is the first time county officials have provided details of the rescue attempt sparked by June 24, 2021, 12-story condo collapse that killed 98 peopleone of the worst real estate disasters in modern US history.

The report, dated April 25recounted how first responders battled carbon monoxide and electric shock caused by moisture in power lines from power tools they used to cut concrete in an effort to reach the victim.

“For more than two months, I have spoken to crews working directly under the rubble in the parking lot, as well as crews working on the debris pile,” Miami-Dade Deputy Fire Chief Raied S wrote. Jadallah in the report. .

“During these visits, we would discuss details of the operation, lessons learned, as well as the mental and emotional well-being of the crews,” he said. “Sometimes the details of the operation were at the forefront of conversation, highlighting the insurmountable efforts our MDFR crews made to find life under the rubble.”

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In December, USA TODAY and The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Network, first reported the attempt to rescue person from rubble – one of the few confirmed people found alive. This report identified the survivor as 14-year-old Valeria Barth Gomez.

Reporters named the girl based on public records indicating the survivor was with her parents, Luis Fernando Barth Tobar, 51, and Catalina Ramirez Gomez, 45, in Unit 204 at the time of the collapse so that they were on vacation in Colombia.

USA TODAY also interviewed structural engineers who said the unit was directly above the location of the garage where the rescue operation took place and that it was likely someone from that unit who was trapped.

Other records indicated that a fire broke out during the rescue operation where first responders were cutting with tools. Valeria’s body was burned, according to medical examiner reports.

Valeria and her parents died as a result of the collapse.

But Jadallah wrote that the evidence pointed to Valasquez, 36, as the victim because the person responders spoke to during the rescue attempt spoke English with no discernible accent. The report also notes that the survivor did not cry or call for her parents as a younger person would, and that the location of her body matched where the rescue operation took place.

Valasquez was in unit 304 – just above Barth.

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The report disputed USA TODAY reporting, such as coverage of tools used in search and rescue operations, and that rescuers caused the fire, adding: “Spontaneous fires were not uncommon as damaged electric vehicles (EVs) burst into flames during operations.” The flames may also have been fueled by afternoon winds.

At no time does the report say rescuers asked the victim for his name.

In an email to USA TODAY, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said its department has “an obligation to the families of the victims to provide them with the facts that have been obtained based on a thorough and comprehensive review of the process. , procedures and evidence.

“While this process takes time, it is rooted in our ongoing commitment and dedication to families and our community for truth and transparency. They have and will continue to be our priority,” the email adds.

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