SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - As rescue crews tirelessly search through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo, they are finding heartbreaking reminders of some of the youngest people impacted by the collapse.
Leo Soto, the person who started a makeshift memorial near the site of the collapse, said rescuers left stuffed animals and toys they had found in the rubble of the building. Some of the toys placed at the site include a Nerf gun, a football and a Winnie the Pooh bear.
“This is supposed to be the wall of hope,” Soto said. “It’s not a memorial. It’s the wall of hope. Every person there had a life. I knew somebody personally, Nicky. I went to high school with her. She was a beautiful person. She just had her bachlorette party, about to get married. Hopefully, I’m still waiting for a miracle. We have the best rescue team in the entire world. Why can’t it happen here?”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue also paid a visit to the scene of the memorial Saturday and took some time to pray and reflect on the tragedy.
Families and friends of the missing walked up one by one on Monday to the memorial. Some, as they approached, broke down in tears as they found their loved one’s photograph.
Tim Venables knew Sophia Lopez, the president of Paraguay’s sister-in-law.
“I just hope they didn’t suffer, and the family can find some closure,” Venables said. “She was just laid back and easy going and relaxed, and they had a lot of money, but she was just so genuine and didn’t care, just cared about her children, and she was very, very nice. You can feel God in her. You can feel the Holy Spirit in her.”
Iréna Polisskaya pointed at a photo of Ruslan Manashirov, a family friend and physician. He and his wife, Nicole Manashirov, moved to Champlain Towers South in April.
“Such a brilliant man, very good doctor,” Polisskaya said. “He was young and handsome and just married.”
“He was on the seventh floor and still missing, so for him, we wish the best but fear the worst,” said Vadim Voynov, a friend of Manashirov’s.
As of 11:30 a.m. Monday, officials said 10 people have died as a result of collapse, and 151 people remain unaccounted for.
Christina Fuentes said Marcus Guara, his wife Ana and their children Lucia and Emma were like family.
“God takes our best angels early on, so we have faith that they’re all with God, and they’re all watching over us,” Fuentes said. “We know we have faith. We will see them again someday. Quite the adventurous family. They traveled a lot. They travel together as a family. They did everything together as a family. They loved each other a lot.”
Monday night, Miami-Dade Police identified Marcus as one of the victims they had recovered, but there is still no word on Ana, Lucia and Emma’s status.
A vigil was held on the beach north of the collapse site, where dozens offered prayers for those who have been lost and the families of the victims.
“It’s an amazing cross-section of Miami, the small town that I grew up in, basically,” a vigil attendee said.
Fire Rescue and special response teams have been working at the site since Thursday to find survivors inside the rubble.
Those who have missing loved ones should visit the Family Reunification Center, at 9301 Collins Ave., or call 305-614-1819.
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