Friends, family describe loved ones who went missing when the Florida condo collapsed

Friends, family describe loved ones who went missing when the Florida condo collapsed


SURFSIDE, Florida (AP) – Families around the world were caught between dwindling hopes and mounting fears on Saturday, two days after the breathtaking collapse of a 12-story condo near Miami.

At least four people were killed and more than 150 people remained missing as rescuers continued to dig through the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside. The building housed an international mix of foreign retirees, South American immigrants, and Orthodox Jews, all with anxious relatives around the world.

Here are some of their stories:


ANDREA SARCOS via Getty Images

A makeshift memorial at the site of the collapsed building in Surfside has photos of missing residents.

MARIA THERESA AND RICKY ROVIROSA

Maria Theresa and Ricky Rovirosa are a “perfect couple” who support each other and others, according to long-time friend Monika Mucarsel Gressier.

The couple have two grown children who they raised in their South Miami home and used their Surfside condo as a part-time summer vacation. Gressier was living in California when she met Maria Theresia, whom she called Maituca, through work.

“We became friends immediately,” said Gressier in a text message. “It was one of the reasons that gave me confidence and support to accept moving to Miami. Maituca became my family support, always giving myself and others the resources and guidance to navigate the city of Miami. “

Gressier described Ricky as charming and his wife as “stunningly beautiful” inside and out.

“When I think of them, I think of one of my fondest memories of the time I watched them dance salsa and how loving they always were,” wrote Gressier. “I pray and hope that you will survive this tragedy as I know the strength you both carry and I also know that your tremendous love for your girls and family will keep you struggling to survive this . “

CASSONDRA BILLEDAU-STRATTON

Cassondra Billedeau-Stratton, 40, has worked as an actress, model and Pilates trainer and “has filled everything she does with a vivid zest for life,” her husband said in a statement.

“Cassie is a wife, mother, and true friend to so many,” said Michael Stratton, a Democratic political strategist from Colorado. He told Denver’s KMGH-TV that during the coronavirus pandemic, he and his wife spent much of their time in the apartment they’ve owned for four years.

Billedeau-Stratton loved walking and cycling along the beach, her sister Stephanie Fonte told the New York Times. When the sisters were together, she would often have them pose for photos on the beach or near a bouquet of flowers.

Michael Stratton said he and his wife were on the phone when the building collapsed.

“She described the building shaking and then … the phone was dead,” he said.

Search and rescue workers are working to find survivors or injured in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers con.  to find


Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Search and rescue workers are looking for survivors or injured in the partially collapsed 12-story apartment building Champlain Towers.

ILIAN NAIBRYF

Ilian Naibryf has been an active member of the Jewish community at the University of Chicago since arriving three years ago, Rabbi Yossi Brackman of Rohr Chabad told the school.

Naibryf, who has just finished his junior year, was president of the Chabad House student committee last year. He and his girlfriend were in Florida to attend the funeral of a friend who died of COVID-19, his parents told CNN.

“He’s a really great guy, very friendly, always smiling, and just an all-round popular person,” said Brackman.

Brackman said the Rohr Chabad community was desperate but hopeful.

“Our message is one of hope and we encourage everyone to pray and be kind during this difficult time for many people,” he said. “We believe in miracles, have seen them and hope to see them again.”

MYRIAM CASPI NOTKIN and ARNOLD NOTKIN

Myriam Caspi Notkin, 81, and husband Arnold “Arnie” Notkin, 87, married about 20 years ago after losing their spouses, such a family friend.

“They were a happy couple. We hope for a miracle, ”said Fortuna Smukler, a North Miami Beach commissioner who grew up with Myriam Notkin’s three daughters. Whenever they met as adults, Notkin always remembered her friendship with Smukler’s mother, who died 40 years ago.

“Every time Myriam saw me, she always had to emphasize how wonderful my mother was,” said Smukler. “She was very thoughtful.”

Smukler also knew Arnie Notkin from his time as a physical education teacher and coach at Leroy D. Fienberg Elementary School in South Beach in the 1960s. He had an engaging personality and always had a story to tell.

“He had students who became famous and he had to tell me about them, whether they were good or mischievous,” she said.

Contributors to this report were Associate Press Writer Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee, Colleen Slevin in Denver, Don Babwin in Chicago, Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, and Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire.





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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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