SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - A father is talking about the moments after part of his Surfside condominium building collapsed, the frantic rush down the stairs and helping one of his neighbors escape the building.
Albert Aguero said he can remember Thursday morning’s events clearly, as crews continue to search for his Champlain Towers South neighbors.
“The walls were shaking,” Aguero said. “I looked to the left, and our neighbor’s apartment was cut in half from the top.”
Aguero, whose family lived in apartment 1106, knew they did not have a lot of time once firefighters told them to get out.
“When we got to the stairwell, we opened the door, and that’s when we needed to really move because half the wall was missing in the stairwell,” Aguero said.
He and family walked down 11 flights of stairs in the dark, and their voices kept them moving because they knew they were still together.
“We got to about the third floor, and we ran into an elderly lady who was being protected by a 25-year-old girl,” Aguero said. “I thought it was her granddaughter. It turned out not to be, and she was like, ‘You guys have to slow down because you’re gonna trample her.’ At that point, my son and I kind of took the lead of making sure she got down to the first floor.”
“When we got down to the first floor, the first floor was starting to flood,” Aguero added. “It probably collapsed like 3 feet, so our only way out was to crawl out of some rubble, so we were able to kind of push her along through the rubble.”
Everything the family saw in front of them was destroyed, but they escaped both as a family and with their neighbors.
“She was obviously shaken,” Aguero said. “She’s like, ‘I’ve lived a good life. I’m good.’ I was like, ‘No, no, you’re going to make it to the 89th birthday. I promise,’ and we got her out, so hopefully, she’s OK.”
Rescue crews, meanwhile, have not stopped searching through the debris for survivors.
Aguero and his family said they are heartbroken there are people trapped underneath the rubble, but they are holding onto hope for a miracle.
“I don’t know how or why we escaped, especially being on the top floor and making it down in that time was quite unbelievable,” Aguero said.
Families have gathered at the Family Reunification Center at the Grand Beach Hotel, at 9449 Collins Ave., to wait for answers on their loved ones’ status. Families can also call 305-614-1819 to account for their loved ones.
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