The search for bodies at Surfside, Florida condo collapse site ended, with firefighters and search teams recognized in a ceremony Friday.
The June 24 collapse left 97 people dead – 96 bodies were removed from the rubble and one died in a hospital after being evacuated – and one missing person has still not been identified among the remains.
Officials said there were no more bodies found in the rubble, but investigators continue to sift through the debris where they are now housed in separate locations. Other than the first hours of searching after the building collapsed, no other person was found alive.
Estelle Hedaya, the 54-year-old woman believed to be the latest victim, has still not been found, although authorities have not clarified whether a remaining body has been found or whether it is awaiting a DNA test. Hedaya would bring the death toll to 98.
“As we enter the second month alone, without any other family, we feel helpless,” Hedaya’s brother, Ikey Hedaya, told The Associated Press.
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky on Friday acknowledged the grueling work of firefighters who have worked 12-hour shifts over the past four weeks. Rescue teams battled heat, thunderstorms and the Florida fire in the building.
“It’s obviously devastating. It’s obviously a difficult situation at all levels, ”Cominsky said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women who represent Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.”
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Rescue teams left the site of the collapse in a procession of fire trucks and other vehicles and made their way to the fire department where they announced at a press conference that the search was over.
“Closing down families was the ultimate test for everyone here, and I think we did our best to make it happen,” said Scott Dean, head of one of the research working groups, rescue and recovery.
“It was extremely exhausting,” Nichole Notte, a member of the task force, told local Miami station WPLG. “Especially having a baby at home and seeing the things that we have seen is difficult. It’s harder. It’s personal.”
Contribution: The Associated Press