Who are they? Stories of the victims of Surfside collapse
(See the above gallery for those victims who have been identified and have been recovered from the Surfside collapse. This will continually be updated as more are recovered.)
On Thursday, June 24, about 55 of the 135 units at Champlain Towers South collapsed around 1:30 a.m. Here are stories of the victims who have currently been identified.
Harold “Harry” Rosenberg, 52, Apt. 212: After losing his wife, Anna, to brain cancer and both of his parents to COVID-19 in New York, Rosenberg’s new home at the Surfside Champlain Towers came with the promise of a fresh start. Th e asset manager purchased the second-floor condo in May. In recent months, Rosenberg had dedicated himself to Mercaz Shalom, a young-adult center for mental healing, located on the campus of Mayanei Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak, Israel, a project which Anna had begun before she was diagnosed, according to its website. His body was recovered on Wednesday, July 7.
Benny Weisz, 31 and Malky Weisz, 27: The couple arrived in Surfside from Lakewood, N.J., the night of the building collapse to visit Malky’s father Harold “Harry” Rosenberg in Apartment 212. The couple had been married for five years. Benny worked in finance and Malky worked as an auditor in an accounting firm. Benny was recovered on Thursday, July 8. “Benny knows everything. He can quote the works of the great German playwrights and poets like Goethe and Schiller . . .,” said a childhood friend. Malky is still unaccounted for.
Ruslan Manashirov, 36, and Nicole Doran-Manashirov, Apt. 703: Friends say the couple moved to Apt. 703 of Champlain Tower South two months ago after they were married. Ruslan was a neurologist and Doran-Manashirov was a physician’s assistant at Aventura Hospital. Ruslan’s body was recovered on Wednesday, July 7. Nicole’s remains have not yet been found at the site.
Ilan Naibryf, 21, and Deborah Berezdivin, 21, Apt. 812: Ilan Naibryf, who was born in Argentina, was in his fourth year at University of Chicago, where he was pursuing a degree in physics with a minor in molecular engineering. Naibryf had been visiting Surfside with his girlfriend, Deborah Berezdivin, a graduate student at George Washington University. He followed her to Surfside to support her during the funeral of family friend who had died from COVID-19. They were staying in one of the units that Berezdivin’s family owned on the eighth floor, the New York Times reported. Their bodies were recovered on Wednesday, July 7.
Vishal Patel, 42, and Bhavna Patel, 36, Apartment 311: The Patels moved into Champlain Towers South two years ago. Their niece, Sarina Patel told KABC-TV that she had planned on coming to see the family soon and to meet 1-year-old Aishani. Bhavna Patel, who had dual citizenship in England and the United States, was four months pregnant with the couple’s second child, according to family members.
Gary Cohen, 58, 11th floor: Dr. Gary Cohen lived in Birmingham, Ala., and had ties to South Florida, including his elderly parents, who lived in Boynton Beach. Cohen arrived Wednesday to stay in his brother’s two-bedroom condo on the 11th floor of the Champlain Towers South, one day before the collapse of the Surfside condo. His brother, Dr. Brad Cohen, is still unaccounted for. Gary Cohen graduated from Nova Southeastern University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1989. He was a doctor, affiliated with Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Gary’s wife, Mindy, is co-president of Haddassah Birmingham (Ala.). She told Local 10 News: “I believe that Judaism sets up a structure and guidelines and gives us a moral compass. And that’s how we’re getting through this.” Cohen had come to town to visit his elderly parents, including his ailing father, who lived in Boynton Beach. Five days after the collapse, their mother, Debra Cohen, spoke to Local10 News about the possibility of losing both of her sons. “They are irreplaceable,” she said.
Betty Guerra and Oresme Gil Guerra: The couple, who were in an apartment on the ninth floor, had only lived in the building a few months before the collapse. They were married in 2017. 60-year-old Oresme’s body was recovered on Thursday, July 8. Betty is still unaccounted for.
Elaine Lia Sabino, 71, Penthouse 10: A flight attendant with US Airways and JetBlue for nearly 10 years, the graduate of University of Florida had been a baton twirler on the Gatorette team. She kept up her love of twirling as a teacher and a judge at national competitions, according to her friend Shelly Angle. Her sister, Daytona Beach resident, Linda Howard, told The Palm Beach Post, “She was a very loving person. Very vivacious. She had a bigger-than-life personality.” JetBlue released a statement, which said, in part: “JetBlue is mourning the loss of our inflight crewmember, Elain Sabino. Elaine was with JetBlue for five years, but spent her career in similar roles serving travelers in the sky. We will remember Elaine for her larger than life personality and geerosity, someone who was always willing to step up to help with a positive attitude. We are in director contact with her family to provide support through this difficult time.”
Cattarossi family: Graciela Cattarossi, 48, Estella, 7, Graciela Cattarossi, 86, and Gino Cattarossi, 89, Apt. 501: A friend wrote to Local 10 the day of the collapse and sent a photo of Graciela Cattarossi and daughter, Estella, 7, who were missing after the Surfside building tragedy. The friend said Cattarossi’s elderly parents, Graciela and Gino, were also missing. On Friday, July 2, Estella’s body was recovered from the rubble. Her mother’s body was recovered later that day. Graciela was a photographer, whose photos appeared in magazines such as Conde Nast, Martha Stewart Living, Vanity Fair and Travel + Leisure. But friends say what was most important to the single mother was her daughter. Also in Apt. 501 were her parents, Graciela and Gino. Their bodies were recovered on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Their other daughter, Andrea, an architect in Pilar, Argentina, was visiting, friends say. Her body was recovered on Monday, July 5.
Nancy Kress Levin, 76, and Jay Kleiman, 52, Apt. 712: Jay Kleiman had come to stay with his mother at the Champlain Towers South from Puerto Rico to attend the funeral of a friend who had died from the coronavirus, according to chabad.org. A musician, Jay had released three albums, with his latest, “All the Voices in My Head,” coming out just three months before he died at Surfside. Nancy, according to the story, left Cuba in 1959 and moved to Puerto Rico, later coming to Surfside, Fla., where she became an active member of The Shul, according to Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar. Nancy and Jay’s bodies were recovered on Monday, July 5. Nancy’s other son, Frankie, lived on the same floor as his mother. His body was recovered on Monday, June 28.
Frankie Kleiman, 55, Apt. 702: Frankie Kleiman was newly married to Ana Ortiz and lived with her and her son, Luis. Kleiman was identified as one of the victims identified on Monday, June 28, whose body had been identified. Other members of the Kleiman family who were killed in the collapse include Frankie’s brother, Jay Kleiman, who was visiting from Puerto Rico and staying with his mother, Nancy Kress Levin, in Apartment 712.
Francis Fernandez Plasencia, 67, Apt 411. A GoFundMe page set up for Francis, who is the mother of 3, said that she was spending a night with some friends at the Champlain building when it collapsed. That day, family members emailed Local10.com to say that they would like a picture added to the online gallery and shown on television since she had not been heard from since the collapse. Her family said they were devastated. “Please help us by showing her picture; this will give us a small glimmer of hope,” the email read. Her body was recovered on Monday, July 5.
Simon Segal, 80, Apt. 1203: Simon Segal’s life was an accomplishment in structural engineering and construction. And, he was devoted to his craft. He was a product control reviewer for the State of Florida, reviewing test reports on Florida Building Codes, including structural components. Ironically, he died after the structure collapse of the condominium he lived in. He owned a construction company in Miami Beach and had worked throughout Florida as an engineer with experience in structural design. He was a real estate broker, a mortgage broker, and was fluent in Spanish, and, what he described as conversational in three other languages, Portuguese, Italian and French. He majored in structural and civil engineering at Cornell University and earned three master’s degrees. One he received in construction management in 1982, the other in finance in 1987, and an MBA in 1999, all from Florida International University. He taught real estate development and finance as an adjunct profession in the College of Business Administration at FIU. His body was recovered on Tuesday, July 6 — a victim of the Surfside building collapse.
Sophia López Moreira, 36, Luis Pettengill, 36, and Luis Lopez Moriera III, 3: Sophia López Moreira is the sister of Silvana López Moreira, the first lady of the Republic of Paraguay, who married to President Mario Abdo Benitez. Sophia’s body was recovered on Thursday, July 8. Her husband, Luis Pettengill and the couple’s youngest son, Luis Lopez Moriera III, were recovered on Wednesday, July 7. Two of their children remain missing, according to Paraguay’s National Foreign Minister Euclides Acevado.
Leidy Luna Villalba, 23: Villalba was identified by the Foreign Ministry of Paraguay as one of 6 Paraguayan nationals missing in the collapse. They named 3 individuals: Luis Pettengill, Sophia López-Moreira, and Villalba and three children. Leidy, 23, was working as a nanny for the family. Being in Surfside was the first time she had ever been away from her native country. She was identified as recovered on Wednesday, July 7.
Tzvi Ainsworth and Ingrid “Itty” Ainsworth: Tzvi Ainsworth, 68, prayed weekly at a small synagogue in Surfside, said Rabbi Areyh Citron. He and his wife, Ingrid 66, were among the bodies recovered from Champlain Towers South on Monday, July 5. According to the Jewish News, Tzvi and Ingrid had 7 children and lived in Australia for nearly 20 years. Family said they moved to South Florida to be closer to their children and grandchildren. On the day of the collapse, a baby girl was born to their son and daughter-in-law.
Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, Apt. 1002: The New Jersey native was the first victim to be identified. She was rescued on June 24 from the collapse and taken to a hospital after the collapse, but passed away there. Her son, 15-year-old Jonah Handler was pulled from the rubble and survived. The Fang and Handler family released a statement that said: “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.”
Manuel “Manny” LaFont, 54, Apt. 801: Manny Lafont was born and raised in Houston. Lafont’s former wife, Adriana Lafont, told Houston’s ABC13 that Lafont was a doting father to their two children, Mia, 13, and Santi, 10. They had just spent Father’s Day together only days before the collapse. A friend posted a video of LaFont dancing on Facebook and saying he was the “life of the party.” LaFont coached his son’s baseball team, the Astros, at North Shore Park, just a mile away from the Surfside condo. A friend is petitioning the city of Miami Beach to rename North Shore Park after LaFont. His body was recovered on Friday, June 25.
Andreas Giannitsopoulous, Apt. 801: 21-year-old Andreas Giannitsopoulous, whose body was recovered on Wednesday, June 30, was visiting his father’s best friend, Manny LaFont, when the building collapsed. Giannitsopoulous from Houston, Texas, was studying Economics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
Luis Andres Bermudez, 26, and Anna Ortiz, 46, Apt 702: Bermudez’s cousin contacted Local 10 the day of the collapse to say Bermudez had muscular dystrophy and couldn’t walk. His mother, Anna, was identified along with her son on Saturday, June 26. “My Luiyo. You gave me everything,” Luis’ father wrote to his son on Facebook.
Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and Christina Beatriz Elvira (Oliwkowicz), 74, Apt. 704: The daughter of the Oliwkowicz couple contacted Local10.com the day of the collapse to say that she had not heard from her 80-year-old father and 74-year-old mother who lived in the Champlain Towers. Their bodies were recovered on Sunday, June 27. They were among six Venezuelan natives missing in the building’s collapse. A story in an Orthodox Jewish news website featured a story about the couple in which Mr. Oliwkowicz commissioned a Torah scroll in memory of his parents and, speaking in Yiddish, blessed those in attendance in Chicago at the dedication with “health and long life.” Mr. Oliwkowciz’s body was recovered on Saturday, June 26, while his wife’s was identified the next day.
Antonio Lozano, 83, and Gladys Lozano, 79, Apt. 903: Sergio Lozano said he had dinner with his parents, Gladys and Antonio Lozano, only hours before the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in the early morning of Thursday. Sergio said his parents would have celebrated their 59th anniversary on July 21 and had known each other for more than 60 years. The son said that his parents had joked that neither wanted the other one to pass away first because they didn’t want to be without each other. Sergio said if he was to find solace, it is that if they did not survive the collapse, that they “went together and went quickly.” Antonio’s body was recovered on Thursday, June 24, the day of the collapse, while his wife’s was recovered the next day.
Michael David Altman, 50, Apt. 1101: Michael Altman’s family and loved ones wrote to Local 10 after the collapse. They said they had checked hospitals and filed a missing persons report. On Monday, June 28, it was announced that his body was recovered from the wreckage of the Champlain Towers South.
The Guara family: Marcus Joseph, 52, Anaely, 41, Lucia, 11, and Emma, 4: Marcus and his wife, Anaely and two children, moved into the Surfside building less than a year ago, according to Betsy Gonazalez, who told the Washington Post that she was Anaely’s aunt. Marcus’s body was recovered Saturday, June 26. Anaely, 41, and 11-year-old Lucia, and Emma, 4, were recovered on Wednesday, June 30, according to Miami-Dade Police. The family were members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Miami Beach. Janice Gudman told Local 10 News her 11-year-old granddaughter had been friends with the two children since she was in kindergarten. “I feel incredibly sad. The girls were sweethearts,” Gudman said. Gonzalez told the Post that Anaely was born in Cuba and came to the United States when she was a teen. Marcus worked in the hotel business, Gonzalez said.
Hilda Noriega, Apt. 602: The mother of the North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega was pulled from the rubble in Surfside on Tuesday, June 29. The family was getting ready to move the 92-year-old out of the towers where she had lived for about two decades. “The Noriegas have lost their ‘heart and soul’ and ‘matriarch’ of their family, but will get through this time by embracing the unconditional love Hilda was known for,” a statement from the city of North Bay Village read.
Magaly Delgado: Magaly Ramsey describes her mother, Magaly Delgado, as a strong 80-year-old who was living in an apartment on the ninth floor. Her daughter immediately drove to Surfside from Jupiter when she found out it was the building her mother lived in that had collapsed. Born in Cuba, Delgado moved to the United States in 1961 and worked all her life, according to her daughter. “She loved being at the beach and she loved her two grandchildren,” Ramsey said. Her body was recovered from the collapse site on Wednesday, June 30.
Bonnie and David Epstein: 56-year-old Bonnie’s body was recovered on Wednesday, June 30. Her husband, David, 58, was recovered on Friday, July 2. The husband and wife lived in apartment 901. Their son, Jonathan, who lives in New York City, told Local 10 the day of the collapse that he hadn’t heard from his parents. Friends say they were snowbirds from the northeast who were enjoying early retirement.
Gonzalo and Maria Torres: 81-year-old Gonzalo Torres lived with his wife, Maria, in apartment 912. On Friday, July 2, Gonzalo’s body was recovered. His wife, Maria, is still unaccounted for. Both were members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the same church that the Guara family, who also died in the collapse, according to the church’s pastor.
Claudio Bonnefoy and Maria Obias-Bonnefoy: The bodies of Claudio, 85 and his wife, Maria, 69, were recovered on Friday, July 2. They lived on the 10th floor of Champlain Towers South. Bettina Obias had flown to Florida to visit her Aunt Maria and Uncle Claudio, but when she arrived, she learned about the collapse of the building. In Maryland, Montgomery County Media reported that Maria and Claudio Bonnefoy had worked in Washington, D.C., where Maria was the Senior Budget Officer for the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, while Claudio was legal counsel.