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First funerals held for Miami condo collapse victims: Mourners pay respects to family of four including two young girls and the 92-year-old mother of a local police chief as death toll hits 36 with 109 still missing
- Funeral for Marcus Guara, 52; his wife, Ana Guara, 42; and their daughters Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, was held
- Three black Cadillac hearses carried the bodies into St. Joseph Catholic Church in Miami Beach on Tuesday
- At family’s request, Lucia and Emma placed in the same casket; Marcus and Ana were in separate coffins
- Ana, Lucia, and Emma were found hours after Champlain Tower South collapsed late on June 24 in Surfside
- Marcus’ body was found on June 26; He had just started a new job as sales manager for maker of towels, linens
- Mourners also paid respects to Hilda Noriega, 92, the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega
The first funeral for victims of a collapsed Miami-area condo building was held on Tuesday as mourners gathered to lay to rest a family of four, including two young children, and another woman nearly two weeks after the disaster struck.
The lives of Marcus Guara, 52, his wife Ana Guara, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, were memorialized in a service at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Miami Beach.
Three black Cadillac hearses carried the bodies of Marcus, Ana, Lucia, and Emma.
Marcus’ remains were the first to be pulled from the rubble on June 26. The girls and their mother were recovered on June 30.
Marcus studied business at the University of Miami, where he was the captain of the rowing team, and worked as a regional sales manager for New York-based bed and bath textile company Kassatex. But he was, above all, a family man.
Pallbearers took two white caskets and one blue casket into the church. The two children were placed together in one of the white caskets at the family’s request.
In a nearby church, mourners also paid respects to Hilda Noriega, 92, who was also among those killed in the condo collapse.
As of Tuesday, the remains of 36 people were found – 26 of whom have been identified. There are still 109 people missing.
Pallbearers carry a casket before a funeral service for Marcus Guara and his family at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Miami Beach on Tuesday. Guara’s family of four was killed in the Surfside condo collapse on June 24. Marcus’ body was discovered on June 26. The bodies of his wife, Anaely, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, were found hours after the collapse on June 24. The casket above is carrying the remains of the two young girls. The family asked that they be buried together
The image above shows pallbearers wheeling Ana’s casket before the funeral service for the Guara family on Tuesday in Miami Beach
Marcus Guara’s casket is carried by pallbearers into St. Joseph Catholic Church in Miami Beach on Tuesday
Marcus Guara’s body was recovered on June 26 – two days after the building collapsed
Pallbearers wheel the casket of Anaely Rodriguez Guara into St. Joseph Catholic Church in Miami Beach on Tuesday
The bodies of Anaely and the couple’s two children were found in the initial hours after the condo collapsed
Mourners console each other before the start of the funeral at St. Joseph Catholic Church in
A mourner weeps as she touches Marcus Guara’s casket at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Miami Beach on Tuesday
Pallbearers bring one of the caskets to the hearse after the funeral in Miami Beach on Tuesday
Marcus Guara, 52; his wife Anaely Guara, 42; and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, are seen in the above undated file photo
Also, officials updated the death toll to 36 after eight more bodies were found in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida.
Some 109 people were still missing as rescue workers battled high winds from approaching Tropical Storm Elsa.
Officials said they still have not determined what caused the collapse.
The ramped-up search effort faced new threats from severe weather with Tropical Storm Elsa lashing Florida on a path that would mostly bypass the collapse site.
Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah announced the new death count to family members during a closed-door morning briefing Tuesday, according to video posted on social media.
Pallbearers carry the casket of Hilda Noriega from St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach on Tuesday
Noriega was 92 years old. She is the mother of Carlos Noriega, the chief of police of nearby North Bay Village
Mourners embrace as they leave Hilda Noriega’s funeral at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach on Tuesday
Noriega, who lived in Apt. 602 in the 12-story tower, only recently celebrated her 92nd birthday. Her body was discovered among the remains of the condo tower last Tuesday, June 29
At another nearby church, Hilda Noriega, a 92-year-old residents of the condo, was also memorialized on Tuesday.
Pallbearers carried her coffin during a service at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach.
Noriega, who lived in Apt. 602 in the 12-story tower, was the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega.
She had only recently celebrated her 92nd birthday. Her body was discovered among the remains of the condo tower last Tuesday, June 29.
Her loved ones paid tribute to the ‘matriarch of the family’ in a statement.
Noriega’s son had traveled to the collapse site on Thursday to look for his mother, who had only recently celebrated her 92nd birthday.
Among the rubble, the police chief found a birthday card a relative had given to Noriega at a brunch, reported Local10.
Marcus Guara had just started a new job in November as a sales manager for a maker of towels and linens and often raised funds for charities, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to his Facebook account.
‘He loved life and he loved his family. I mean, he loved his family dearly. He lived for them,’ said Marcus’ cousin, Peter Milián, who is vice president of sales for Clear Channel Outdoor in Miami.
He added that Guara was ‘the type of person that just makes everybody feel wonderful.’
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue released images on Tuesday showing crews sifting through the rubble in search of survivors
Search and rescue crews sifted through tons of debris, mangled steel, and concrete in hopes of finding survivors
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews are seen above at the site of the collapsed condo in Surfside, Florida on Tuesday
The image above shows an aerial view of the search and rescue efforts at the site of the collapsed condo in Surfside, Florida on Tuesday
Eight more victims were pulled out of the rubble on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 36 people as of Tuesday afternoon
On June 24, almost half of the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside collapsed. This image was taken on June 25
Nobody has been pulled alive from the mounds of pulverized concrete, splintered lumber and twisted metal since the early hours of June 24 when roughly half of the building came tumbling down in an oceanfront town adjacent to Miami Beach.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told a briefing that rescue workers have been bothered by strong winds as Elsa approaches from the south.
‘The wind is hampering the large cranes moving very heavy debris,’ Burkett said, adding that he met with a family hoping rescuers will find their daughter, a recent law school graduate who married in January, and their son-in-law.
Experts and officials have warned that the probability of finding survivors was remote given how much time has passed.
Officials overseeing the search at the site of the Florida condominium collapse sounded increasingly somber Tuesday about the prospects for finding anyone alive, saying they have detected no new signs of life in the rubble.
Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescuers have not found any ‘liveable spaces.’
He said workers had removed more than 124 tons, or 5 million pounds worth, of debris to date.
Crews in yellow helmets and blue jumpsuits searched the debris for a 13th day while wind and rain from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Elsa complicated their efforts.
Video released by the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department showed workers lugging pickaxes and power saws through piles of concrete rubble barbed with snapped steel rebar.
Other searchers could be seen digging with gloved hands through pulverized concrete and dumping shovels of debris into large buckets.
Search-and-rescue workers continued to look for open spaces where people might be found alive nearly two weeks after the disaster struck at the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside.
‘We’re actively searching as aggressively as we can,’ Cominsky said at a news conference.
But he added: ‘Unfortunately, we are not seeing anything positive. The key things – void spaces, living spaces – we’re not seeing anything like that.’
While officials still call the efforts a search-and-rescue operation, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said families of those still missing are preparing for news of ‘tragic loss.’
‘I think everybody will be ready when it´s time to move to the next phase,’ said Levine Cava, who stressed that crews would use the same care as they go through the rubble even after their focus shifts from searching for survivors to recovering the dead.
This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken on Tuesday at 8am Eastern Time shows Tropical Storm Elsa moving towards Florida after moving up from Cuba in the Caribbean
The storm is seen above after slamming into the Florida Keys on Tuesday morning
Tornado threats remain possible for most of Florida due to the approaching tropical storm
Significant storm surge is likely in the Florida Keys and the west coast of the state, according to the forecast
South Florida could see intermittent periods of downpours due to the approaching tropical storm
The Miami area will not bear the brunt of the storm, which could gain strength as it approaches the west coast of Florida
The entire state of Florida with the exception of the panhandle is under a tornado threat on Tuesday
The storm could make landfall along the western coast of Florida sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning
‘Really, you will not see a difference,’ she said.
‘We will carefully search for bodies and belongings, and to catalog and respectfully deal with any remains that we find.’
Forecasters predict the area will be spared the worst of the storm.
Still, concerns over the impact of Elsa prompted officials to order the demolition of the half of building that had been left standing, which was carried out on Sunday night.
The National Hurricane Center says Elsa is strengthening and could became a hurricane before making landfall along Florida’s northern Gulf coast.
The storm has already complicated the search for survivors in the collapse of a Miami-area condominium 12 days ago.
In addition to damaging winds and heavy rains, the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center warned of life-threatening storm surges, flooding and isolated tornadoes.
A hurricane warning has been issued for a long stretch of coastline, from Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay to the Steinhatchee River in Florida’s Big Bend area.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (seen above on Tuesday speaking to reporters in Surfside) acknowledged that the odds of finding survivors are low
Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett speaks at a press conference about the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium building on Tuesday
‘Although the environment is not conducive for significant strengthening before landfall, only a slight increase in intensity would result in Elsa becoming a hurricane’ Tuesday night or early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said in its 2pm advisory.
The Tampa area is highly vulnerable to storm surge because the offshore waters and Tampa Bay are quite shallow, experts say.
But on the barrier island beach towns along the Gulf Coast, it was largely business as usual with few shutters or plywood boards going up.
Free sandbags were being handed out at several locations, and a limited number of storm shelters opened Tuesday morning in at least four counties around the Tampa Bay area, although no evacuations have been ordered.
Investigators have not determined what caused the 40-year-old complex in Surfside to collapse.
A 2018 engineering report found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries that include a grand jury examination.
Levine Cava cautioned that it could take some time to find the root cause.
‘The whole world wants to know what happened here,’ Cava told the briefing.
‘I look forward to learning the truth.’
THE MIAMI CONDO COLLAPSE VICTIMS IDENTIFIED SO FAR
54-year-old Stacie Fang
STACIE DAWN FANG
Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, was with her son Jonah Handler, a teenager, when the building collapsed. They lived on the tenth floor. The boy’s small hand waved through the wreckage as a man out walking his dog hurried to the site, climbed through a pile of glass and rebar and promised to get help right away.
Rescuers helped the boy out from under a pile of cement and carried him away on a stretcher to a hospital.
‘There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,’ members of her family said in a statement. ‘Many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time.’
Asked about the boy’s condition, a family friend, Lisa Mozloom told the AP ‘He will be fine. He’s a miracle.’
Manuel LaFont, 54
Manuel LaFont, 54, was a proud father, a baseball fan and a business consultant who lived on the building’s eighth floor.
He had a 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter with his ex-wife Adriana LaFont, the Miami Herald reported.
Adriana asked her friends on Facebook to pray the rosary for Manny before his body was found. ‘So many memories inside the walls that are no more today, forever engraved experiences in the heart,’ she wrote.
LaFont, a Houston native, coached his son’s baseball team, the Astros, at North Shore Park, just a mile away from the Champlain. He was a parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach. The parish’s school parents gathered Saturday afternoon to pray for LaFont and his neighbors who were still missing.
An alumnus of Sharpstown High School in Houston, LaFont had worked across Latin America and the Caribbean for a manufacturing firm, leading a division focusing on roadway safety that built crash cushions and moveable barriers, the Herald reported.
‘I got into this industry specifically because I don’t want to sell widgets. I want to help people. I want to do something good in this world,’ he said at an industry conference in 2016. ‘When I die, I want to say that my life meant something.’
ANTONIO AND GLADYS LOZANO
Antonio and Gladys Lozano
Antonio and Gladys Lozano lived on the ninth floor. The two had known each other over 60 years and would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on July 21.
Their sons told WPLG-TV that the couple had joked neither wanted to die before the other, because neither wanted to live without the other. Their one solace, the brothers said, was that they were together when they died.
Authorities confirmed on Saturday that Antonio, 83, and Gladys, 79, were among the dead.
Sergio Lozano said he had dinner with his parents hours before the collapse. He lived in one of the towers of the complex and could see his parents’ apartment across the way from his. That night, he said the heard a loud noise they thought could be a storm.
‘The building is not there,’ he said he told his wife. ‘My parents’ apartment is not there. It’s gone.’
ANA ORTIZ, HER HUSBAND FRANK AND HER SON LUIZ
Ana Ortiz, left, and her son Luis Bermudez and Leon Oliwkowicz and his wife Christina (right)
Luis Bermudez, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, had battled with muscular dystrophy for years and used a wheelchair. The 26-year-old man lived with his mother Ana Ortiz on the seventh floor of the Champlain Towers South.
His father, also named Luis Bermudez, texted the AP saying ‘my son is a hero.’ He also wrote on Facebook that he could not believe he’s gone.
‘Now rest in peace and without any obstacles in heaven,’ he wrote. ‘I will see you soon my Luiyo.’
Ortiz, 46, had just gotten married with Frankie Kleiman. Alex Garcia, the couple’s close friend, told The Miami Herald he had set them up on a blind date. Kleiman lived with his wife and stepson on the same floor as his brother Jay Kleiman, who was in town for a funeral, and their mother Nancy Kress Levin. The Kleimans and their mother are still missing.
50-year-old Frank Kleiman, left, was found on Monday. He was Ana’s husband
Ortiz was described as a woman who was committed to giving her son the best possible life.
‘She´s a rock star. And gorgeous,” Garcia told the Herald. “And on top of that a super mom.
Kleiman, 50, was the husband of Ana Ortiz, whose body was found alongside that of her disabled son, Luiz, over the weekend.
LEON AND CHRISTINA OLIWKOWICZ
Leon Oliwkowicz and his wife Christina were also identified as victims of the tower collapse on Sunday evening
The couple lived on the 8th floor of the condo tower for several years, according to Venezuelan journalist Shirley Varnagy, a close friend of their family.
They were among six Venezuelan natives caught in the building’s collapse. Still missing Monday were Moisés Rodán, 28; Andrés Levine, 27; Luis Sadovnik, 28, and his wife, Nicole Langesfeld, Varnagy said.
Varnagy said the Oliwkowicz’s daughter had been outside the building waiting for some information about their fate. Her husband answered their phone and asked to be left alone.
The couple’s daughter, Mrs. Leah Fouhal, works as a secretary at a Jewish school in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, where the couple donated a Torah in 2019 in a procession that included a vintage fire truck, music and a giant velvet and gold crown, according to COLlive.com, an Orthodox Jewish news outlet that covers Chabad-Lubavitch communities around the world.
Meanwhile, the parents of Rodán, Levine and Sadovnik live in Venezuela and traveled to the U.S. Friday. ‘Some did not have a visa, others had an expired passport, but with diplomatic collaboration they were able to arrive,’ Varnagy said.
MICHAEL DAVID ALTMAN
The body of 52-year-old Marcus Joseph Guara was recovered on Saturday
Hilda Noriega (pictured) was named by her family Wednesday as the 12th confirmed victim of the tragedy
Hilda Noriega, who lived in Apt. 602 in the 12-story tower, was the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega.
She had only recently celebrated her 92nd birthday.
Her body was discovered among the remains of the condo tower Tuesday.
Her family paid tribute to the ‘matriarch of the family’ in a statement Wednesday.
Noriega’s son had traveled to the collapse site Thursday to look for his mother, who had only recently celebrated her 92nd birthday.
Among the rubble, the police chief found a birthday card a relative had given to Noriega at a brunch, reported Local10.
Emma Guara, 4, Lucia Guara, 10, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and Marcus Guara, 52
THE GUARA FAMILY
Miami-Dade police identified 10-year-old Lucia Guara and 4-year-old Emma Guara as victims in the condo collapse on Wednesday, June 30.
The remains of their father, Marcus Guara, 52, were pulled from the rubble Saturday and identified Monday. The girls and their mother, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, were recovered Wednesday.
The family lived on the eighth floor of the condo.
DAVID AND BONNIE EPSTEIN
Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor when the building gave way. Their son, Jonathan, who lives in New York City said he hasn’t been able to contact them.
‘I’m trying to be a little optimistic, but I just don’t see it,’ he told WJXT.
‘It just doesn’t seem real, you know? Why this building? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. I’m struggling to make sense of it.’
Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor when the building gave way. Authorities identified David’s body on Sunday. His wife was found days earlier
On Sunday, Miami-Dade police identified David, 58, as one of the 24 people known to have perished in the fallen tower. His remains were recovered on Friday.
Bonnie’s body was recovered days earlier. She was 56 years old.
The couple, who worked in real estate investments, moved to Florida to retire early so that they could pursue their love of water sports, according to a friend.
Richard Oller, a friend of the couple, wrote on Facebook that David and Bonnie lived on the ninth floor of the building with their dog.
GRACIELA CATTAROSSI AND STELLA CATTAROSSI
Seven-year-old Stella Cattarossi’s body was found alongside her mother Graciela, 48
A Miami firefighter was present when the body of his seven-year-old daughter was recovered from the rubble of the Surfside condo catastrophe in Florida.
Officials said the body of Stella Cattarossi was found Tursday, seven days after the collapse of Champlain South Tower which has left 22 confirmed dead and 126 still missing.
Friends posting online said the girl was found sleeping alongside her 48-year-old mother Graciela. Authorities later confirmed that both mother and daughter were found.
They were staying with Graciella’s elderly parents, Graciela and Gino Cattarossi, who have not been identified, but are also unaccounted for.
Stella’s father Enrique Arango – a ten-year veteran of the Miami Fire Rescue department – is a member of the rescue team who found the girl and was present when her body was recovered.
He had been on the site with his brother.
Graciela’s sister Andrea, an architect based in Pilar, Argentina, was visiting at the time of the disaster. She is also still missing.
Gonzalo Torre, 81, whose remains were found on Saturday, lived at the condo.
MARICOY OBIAS-BONNEFOY AND CLAUDIO BONNEFOY
The bodies of Chilean national Claudio Bonnefo, 85, and his wife Maria ‘Maricoy’ Obias-Bonnefoy, 69, were identified by authorities.
They were among at least 36 people from Latin American nations that are missing, according to the Miami Herald. The couple were reported missing from Unit #1001.
Maricoy Obias-Bonnefoy, born in the Philippines, reportedly called her niece Irene Obias-Sanchez on the evening of the building collapse to discuss a family get-together planned for that coming Sunday.
The bodies of Chilean national Claudio Bonnefo, 85, and his wife Maria ‘Maricoy’ Obias-Bonnefoy, 69, were identified by authorities
It would have been one their first family gatherings since the pandemic as the Bonnefoys were strict about following lockdown restrictions.
‘I could have just texted her back like I often did, but last night it felt different. I knew she wanted to talk about a get-together we were planning on Sunday with my sisters. She was so excited to finally be able to socialize with family after everyone was vaccinated,’ Obias-Sanchez said.
Obias-Bonnefoy had immigrated to the US in the 1970s and worked at the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C. before moving to retiring and moving to Surfside about 10 years ago, the Miami Herald reported.
Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21, of Houston was about to start his senior year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Miami-Dade Police identified him as one of the victims of the June 24 condo collapse in Surfside.
Giannitsopoulos was in Surfside to visit his godfather and his father’s best friend, Manuel ‘Manny’ LaFont.
Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21, of Houston was about to start his senior year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Miami-Dade Police identified him as one of the victims of the June 24 condo collapse in Surfside
The 54-year-old, a coach and business consultant, was also identified as one of the victims.
‘My brother was honestly like my other half,’ 19-year-old Athanasia Giannitsopoulos told The Tennessean.
‘He was my best friend as well as my older brother, so he always protected me and he was always there for me no matter what.
‘He was the most selfless person I have ever met in my life.’
TZVI AINSWORTH AND INGRID AINSWORTH
Tzvi Ainsworth, 68, and his wife, Ingrid Ainsworth, 66, were confirmed to have been killed in the condo collapse on Monday.
The couple, who moved to Miami from Melbourne, Australia, had an apartment on the 11th floor.
The Ainsworths, who were well known among Melbourne’s small Jewish community, split their time between Florida and Australia.
The Ainsworths lived in Australia for nearly two decades before returning to South Florida to be near their children.
The couple had seven children and many live in South Florida, including a daughter who lives just blocks away.
Tzvi (pictured far left) and Ingrid (pictured far right) Ainsworth, members of the Jewish community from Melbourne, lived in an apartment on the 11th floor of the building. Their remains were identified on Monday, July 5
‘Every person she encountered, ever in her life, became her friend. Everyone was treated as equals,’ Chana Wasserman wrote in a Mother’s Day blog post to her mother Itty last year.
‘The guy at the laundromat, the guy working at the fruit market…
Ingrid struggled with chronic pain issues, but didn’t let that darken her mood.
She tried to focus on the positive, a sunny day, a long car ride that would seem tedious to many she reframed as a chance to talk and catch up, her daughter wrote.
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