After a year: Local firefighter remembers what it was like searching for survivors after Surfside collapse

It's been one year since 80 firefighters from Northeast Florida traveled to help search and rescue efforts after the Champlain Towers collapsed in Surfside. News4Jax reporter Marilyn Parker sat down with one of the responding firefighters.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Monday marked a year since 80 firefighters from Northeast Florida traveled to help search and rescue efforts when the Champlain Towers collapsed in Surfside.

News4JAX sat down with one of the local firefighters who responded to the tragic incident.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Engineer Chad Shannon and others from Northeast Florida traveled south to provide help for the deadliest collapse in US history.

RELATED: One year later: Surfside collapse spurs law change but safety experts remain concerned

JFRD is one of the only fire departments in the state with certified skid steer perators like Shannon. The engineers are used to help families recover what was left of their items after a disaster.

“So you still see an existing building that’s collapsed, partially stuff hanging off of AC unit, stuff like that. But in the other building, it’s literally just like, stacked pancakes on top of each other literally just slid down and just stacked pancakes, most cranes and just honestly, controlled chaos,” Shannon said.

Shannon said the air smelled like “death” and during the search the crew found various items such as cash and gold rings.

The crew worked effortlessly to sift through 620,000 cubic yards across both sides of the 12-story beachfront condo reduced to rubble.

“You have to realize the amount of pressure and weight that comes down on those floors. You’re not finding bodies, you’re finding bits of bone and pieces of bone,” Shannon said.

Shannon was five to seven hours from home and worked 16 - 18 hours a day to find survivors.

“We were there, five, six o’clock in the morning till all hours of the night working to get through and find anything that we could just to give these people some closure,” Shannon said.

Overall, Shannon said the experience made them grateful for their families. When the crew returned home, they knew their experience would be something they would never forget.


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A Florida girl and North Carolina A&T SU grad who thrives in breaking news.