Nearly a year after the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, authorities believe they've solved the mystery of the woman's voice that was heard in the rubble.
Rescue workers who were part of the initial search and rescue efforts at the site after the June 24, 2021, collapse heard the woman's voice coming from the building's ruins but her identity has remained a mystery.
But according to a newly-released Miami-Dade Fire Rescue memo, officials believe it belonged to 36-year-old Theresa Velasquez.
SURFSIDE CONDO COLLAPSE
Velasquez was a Los Angeles-based executive for the Live Nation event promotion company. She had flown into Miami to visit her parents at the Surfside condo, both of whom also died in the collapse.
Her body was recovered on July 8. The bodies of Julio and Angela Velasquez had been recovered and identified earlier.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky had spoken about rescue workers hearing the voice not long after the collapse of the 12-story oceanfront building, which killed 98 people.
"They were searching for a female voice, is what we heard for several hours, and eventually we didn't hear her voice anymore," Cominsky said at a news conference a week after the collapse.
Cominsky said the workers continued searching but never found the woman alive.
"Unfortunately we didn't have success with that," he said.
According to the 11-page memo, written by Deputy Fire Chief Ray Jadallah to Cominsky, the identification of Velasquez as the voice in the rubble came from over two months of interviews with crews who worked on the debris field pile and under the rubble in the condo's parking garage area.
According to the memo, fire rescue search and rescue dogs picked up a "live victim scent" underneath the parking garage around 6:30 a.m., nearly five hours after the collapse, and a short time later rescuers began calling out and could faintly hear a female voice.
"It was explained to this supervisor that the crews never had a whole or a long conversation with the woman in the debris pile; instead, they would only communicate for a few seconds at a time," Jadallah wrote.
He added that the various noises from rescue workers made it hard to hear the voice.
"Rescue crews explained that the only times they could communicate with the woman was when all operations ceased, and everyone was silenced," Jadallah wrote. "Even the faintest whisper from the rescue crews or sloshing in the standing water negated any ability to hear the woman."
The memo also refutes a media report that the voice came from Valeria
Barth, a 14-year-old girl visiting from Medellin, Colombia, with her parents.
Jadallah wrote that rescuers reported hearing the voice of a woman and not a young girl, and that the woman didn't have a Spanish accent.
"Considering Valeria is a 14-year-old on a visit to America, rescuers would have heard her crying, perhaps shouting in Spanish, or as expected for a young girl to do, calling out for her parents," the memo states. "Instead, the woman's voice was calm and in control, never calling out for her parents during the rescue operations, as it is expected of a 14-year-old girl."
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