Surfside victims to be honored on collapse anniversary

IDF Maj. Ori Gordin, who helped oversee the search-and-rescue efforts at the site a year ago, is expected to speak at Friday's event.

IDF soldiers are seen aiding in the search and rescue operation in Florida following the collapse of a building in Surfside. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF soldiers are seen aiding in the search and rescue operation in Florida following the collapse of a building in Surfside.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

A year after 98 people died in the Surfside condo collapse, the families of the victims will return to the site of the catastrophe Friday to mark the first anniversary of the Champlain Towers South collapse.

About 300 family members are expected to gather early Friday morning at the site where the 12-story building once stood to light a memorial torch and remember their loved ones.

Israeli Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin who helped oversee the search-and-rescue efforts at the site along with the IDF’s National Rescue Unit is expected to speak at the event. 

The anniversary will be officially observed at 1:22 a.m. — the moment the building collapsed on June 24, 2021. The torch will remain lit for about three weeks, on display in Veterans Park across Collins Avenue from the tragedy site,  to represent the time it took until the last victim, Estelle Hedaya, was recovered from the rubble on July 20, said Mayor Shlomo Danzinger. 

Hatzalah paramedics at the collapsed building in Miami Surfside (credit: MICHAEL STRONGIN/HATZALAH OF SOUTH FLORIDA)Hatzalah paramedics at the collapsed building in Miami Surfside (credit: MICHAEL STRONGIN/HATZALAH OF SOUTH FLORIDA)

The town is also set to broadcast a public event online and through its cable TV channel. Non-reserved seating will be “extremely limited” and only offered on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the town.

The Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution on June 14 to declare June 24 Champlain Towers South-Surfside Remembrance Day in Miami-Dade County, the chairman of the board said in a statement.

A town that is one-third Jewish

The town of Surfside is at least a third Jewish, with a large Orthodox population. Several of those killed in the collapse were identified as part of the Jewish community, including Hedaya, the final victim to be identified, a 54-year-old businesswoman who moved to South Florida from Brooklyn. Her friend Mindy Beth Silverman told the Miami Herald that Hedaya was devoted to her Judaism, with a deep love for Israel.

A year ago, Chabad released obituaries for each of the Jewish victims. 

During search and rescue efforts, an IDF officer recovered a cache of religious Jewish texts from the debris of the condo collapse. A photo shared by Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman at the time showed numerous Jewish texts being recovered from the rubble – presenting a small but representative image of the diverse population that once lived in the tower.

Florida judge finalizes settlement for victims of the collapse 

A Florida judge approved a $1.2 billion settlement for the victims of the Surfside condominium collapse, an attorney for the plaintiffs said on Thursday.

The decision from Miami-Dade CircuitJudge Michael Hanzman came a day before the one-year anniversary of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, Florida. For more than a month crews searched through the rubble of the 12-story building to recover the remains of the victims.

The agreement compensates family members of those who died in the disaster as well as residents who were injured or lost their homes.

Rachel Furst, the plaintiffs' co-lead attorney, said the agreement does not include the proceeds of the land sale or the insurance held by the condominium association, which is money the victims and their family members will also receive.

"It was a very emotional day," Furst said, adding that several of the victims of the collapse testified at the hearing in favor of the settlement.

Federal investigators continue to interview people with knowledge of the incident and test evidence in order to determine the cause of the collapse. The building was built in 1981 and has faced years of scrutiny over its deteriorating conditions.

Reuters contributed to this report.