Surfside condo collapse

Surfside Demands Access to Collapse Site as Last Victim Laid to Rest

So many families have been torn apart, losing loved ones and their property in the collapse. 

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On a day when Gov. Ron DeSantis was meeting privately in Surfside with victims of the Champlain Towers collapse, a funeral was going on in New York City.

Five weeks of agony and the torment of not being able to put her to rest ended Tuesday for the family of Estelle Hedaya. She was the last victim recovered from the rubble. So her loved ones finally have closure. 

“But it’s been devastating to all of us, Estelle was our shining star, she was the joy of all of our lives,” said Regina Elo, Estelle's aunt, outside the synagogue in Brooklyn. 

So many families have been torn apart, losing loved ones and their property in the collapse. 

“For us, it was both, we lost my mom and all of our life possessions, we lost my parents’ wedding album, all of our family heirlooms, sentimental things that you can’t replace,” said Rachel Spiegel. 

Tuesday morning, DeSantis met with a group of family members and local officials to discuss a variety of topics, including the future of the Champlain Towers site. 

“Everybody’s opinion matters in this and that’s what’s hard in this, it’s very personal to a lot of people,” Spiegel said. 

While some of the families favor creating a memorial park where the building stood, Spiegel says she favors whatever approach will provide fair compensation to the victims.

Another topic discussed by the governor with the families was the investigation into the collapse. 

“We still don’t know why that building fell down, and that is a key issue,” said Surfside mayor Charles Burkett, who was in the meeting. 

On Friday, Burkett sent a letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine Cava, asking once again for the Town’s hired structural engineering expert, Allyn Kilsheimer, to be allowed onto the site to conduct analytic testing. At one point the letter reads, in boldface, “The safety of the residents living into the Champlain Towers North building and other oceanfront buildings must not be ignored, nor can action to protect them be delayed any longer.”

Why does Kilsheimer need to get on that site right now, and why is that crucial?

“Because if one of the reasons this building came down had something to do with the foundation system or the soil, we need to know what it is because that may or may not occur elsewhere along this oceanside,” he said. 

Kilsheimer is especially worried about Champlain Towers North, which is extremely similar to the building which failed. He wants to conduct foundational tests, called geotechnical analysis. 

Burkett said Levine-Cava has not yet responded to his letter. In the past, she has said Surfside’s expert will get access to the site as soon as Miami-Dade Police say that it’s no longer a crime scene. 

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