THE first victim of the Miami condo tower disaster is Stacie Fang — the mom of the 15-year-old boy who was dramatically pulled from the rubble.
The 54-year-old mother passed away after the Champlain Towers South crumbled on Thursday in Surfside, near Miami Beach.
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Fang, who is among at least four others who didn’t survive the tragic building collapse, was taken from the debris and later succumbed to her injuries at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center.
Fang’s son, Jonah Handler, was rescued by firefighters shortly after the apartment building collapse — and the incredible moment was captured on video.
The young teen, who was eventually taken to the hospital with broken bones, was helped by witness Nicholas Balboa who was reportedly walking his dog when the building came down.
Balboa, who recounted seeing the boy’s fingers wiffling before the rescue, told Fox News on Thursday that Handler begged: “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me.”
Handler — a 10th grader at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, according to Archdiocese of Miami officials — was taken to hospital with broken bones.
However, his mom died from blunt force injuries shortly after the condo collapse, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner told NPR.
According to NBC6 in Miami, Fang’s family released the following statement: “There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie. The members of the Fang and Handler family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy, compassion and support we have received.
“The many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time.
“On behalf of Stacie’s son, Jonah, we ask you now to please respect our privacy to grieve and to try to help each other heal.”
Fang will be buried on Sunday in New Jersey, according to the news outlet.
Before Fang’s death was confirmed, The Washington Post learned from Virginia Borges, Fang’s sister, that Handler wasn’t badly injured.
She told The Washington Post: “He wants to know what happened to his mother. We all want to know.”
At least four people are dead after part of a Miami apartment block collapsed as experts warned it had been sinking at an “alarming rate” since the 1990s.
Officials on Friday confirmed that three people were pulled from the rubble overnight while 159 people are reported unaccounted.
The mayor of Miami-Dade Daniella Levine Cara confirmed on Friday that 120 people have now been accounted for.
Officials confirmed three bodies had been pulled from the rubble overnight but said every time they hear sound, rescue teams “concentrate resources” in an area.
A fire reignited during the night but didn’t prevent search and rescue operations from carrying on.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Ray Jadallah told reporters on Friday that crews heard sounds in the rubble overnight.
He said: “We are listening for sounds, human sounds and tapping.”
As many people are left wondering why the collapse occurred, a researcher at Florida International University has given some insight as to a possible reason why the beachfront condo building unexpectedly crumbled.
A 2020 study by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment, determined the condo building to be unstable, USA Today reported.
According to the study, the building, which was built in 1981, has been sinking at an “alarming rate” since the 1990s.
When Wdowinski learned of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse, he immediately remembered the building from the study.
“I looked at it this morning and said, ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that,” Wdowinski said, according to USA Today.
Wdowinski — who insisted his findings are not intended to suggest a reason why the collapse took place — said the building was sinking at a rate of approximately two millimeters a year in the 1990s.
Since then, the sinking rate could have either slowed down or sped up, he noted.
Wdowinski said the level of sinking that was measured in the 1990s normally leads to an “impact” in buildings and their structures
“We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement,” he said about the Champlain Towers South condominium.
Ryan Shamet, a professor of engineering at the University of North Florida, told USA Today that buildings in Florida are monitored with the help of satellites and drones.
He explained: “Structural health monitoring is already there.
“But it’s hard because we don’t have the resources yet to monitor every single structure. You kind of have to know if there’s an issue first before you start monitoring it.”
The 12-story apartment was built on wetlands and underneath its foundation is sand and organic fill, The Washington Post reports.
It was situated on a barrier island that had risen about a foot in the past century due to climate change.
But, experts think it’s too early to say whether climate change caused the condo to destabilize.
Communities in Miami have experienced up to 12 inches of sea-level rise over the past century.
Kenneth Direktor said the building was “thoroughly inspected” as they must be recertified within 40 years. The condo passed its inspection this week.
A large section of the Champlain Towers South apartment building was captured on footage collapsing into a pile of rubble near Collins Avenue on 88th Street, NBC Miami reported.
The fire department said on Thursday that out of the 37 pulled from the rubble and out of the 11 people injured, four patients were “transported,” adding that they were placing solar devices and cameras to locate victims.
Firefighters heard banging under the rubble but not distinguishable voices as the wreckage probe continues.
Engineers will be determining what caused the disaster when the search and rescue effort concludes.
Officials confirmed that 55 apartments caved in, causing multiple injuries as 35 people were pulled from the wreckage, with 10 injured.
Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said they heard sounds from under the rubble and that “all operations are occurring underneath” it.
Crews have confirmed that people are trapped under the rubble but the number remains unknown.