Crews devastated after unable to save woman pleading for rescue in Surfside collapse

Fire forced crews to move back, email obtained by WPLG-TV learns

This photo shows what stood in rescue crews way: a dumpster, metal rebar, and a wall of concrete. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

SURFSIDE, Fla. – A woman was found alive in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South 10-12 hours after the collapse but could not be rescued and has died, our sister station in Miami, WPLG-TV, reported.

Citing a rescue worker who asked to remain anonymous, Local 10′s report reads, “In the early morning hours Thursday, immediately after Champlain Towers South collapsed, fire rescue workers heard reports of a woman alive trapped in a lower level that was now inside the garage.”

“Everybody that was there, that’s what we’re trying to do, get this lady out and comfort her. She was asking for help and she was pleading to be taken out of there,” the worker said. “I remember her just talking, ‘I’m here, get me out. Get me out,’” he says.

An email obtained by WPLG says the woman “was aware her parents were also trapped next to her” and included pictures of what was blocking the rescue’s path. The email then states the woman died after a fire forced crews to move back. “As we know she passed,” the email reads in part.

To this point, it’s not clear who that woman is or if she has been recovered from the building.

Miami-Dade Lt. Obed Frometa, with Florida Task Force 1, also serves as a chaplain, helping his colleagues cope with the losses they are facing here. Fire chiefs said they saw “the window knocked out (of the rescue team)” when they learned the woman died, according to WPLG.

The anonymous rescuer worker who Local 10 News spoke said the situation brought “a feeling of not only defeat, but it’s a feeling of loss. We are human, after all. We’re not robots. We’re not machines. We feel it.”

Read the full story from WPLG-TV here.

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.