The last remaining missing person from the Champlain Towers South building collapse in Surfside, Florida, was identified Monday, ending a month-long search and recovery operation.
Estelle Hedaya was the remaining victim who had not yet been identified, leaving her family in limbo until today.
“It was obviously tough to hear directly, but I can definitely see and feel the sense of relief [my parents] got knowing my sister can rest in peace,” Ikey Hedaya, Estelle’s brother, told CNN. “This month has been excruciating to say the least.”
A section of the Champlain Towers South condo building crumbled on June 24 as many residents slept, an as-yet unexplained tragedy that shattered a small coastal community in South Florida.
After weeks of combing through a pile of metal and concrete looking for victims, Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 98 victims have now been identified, including 97 victims who were recovered from the collapse and one person who died in the hospital. Ninety-eight families have been notified, and all 97 people for whom there was a missing persons report have been recovered.
A total of 242 people are accounted for, Levine Cava said.
The site of the collapse had been mostly cleared and the debris has been relocated as of late last week, Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
As time went by, it became clear that it was unlikely teams would find survivors. But the search was relentless, with only pauses for dangerous weather conditions and the destruction of the rest of the tower.
Officials had promised families that they would not let up until all of their loved ones were found. Now, that promise has been fulfilled.
Levine Cava said the collapse was “the largest non-hurricane related emergency response in the history of our state.” While nothing can bring back the victims of the collapse, Levine Cava said “we have done everything possible to bring closure to the families.”
For the past 33 days, first responders “have searched the rubble as if they were searching for one of their own,” the mayor said.