Firefighters in Miami-Dade County, Florida, on Friday officially ended their recovery mission 29 days after the Champlain Towers South building collapsed in Surfside, killing at least 97 people.
The county said in a Friday press release that throughout the nearly monthlong search, which on July 7 transitioned from a rescue to recovery mission, 96 victims had been recovered from the site of the collapse, and one individual passed away in the hospital.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D) said in a statement that while one victim is still unaccounted for, the local fire and rescue department would be “transitioning the search and recovery effort to the Miami-Dade Police Department.”
“The operation is ongoing, and MDPD is continuing to search the debris pile both for human remains and for personal items until they have completed a full additional search of the debris,” the county said.
Video posted to social media by local ABC affiliate WPLG showed fire and rescue task force members being met by family members as they officially left the collapse site Friday after nearly a month of working 12-hour shifts to locate those still missing.
Emergency responders were seen hugging their kids, including one task force member who said she looked forward to returning home to her 4-month-old daughter.
#Voices from #Surfside: #Taskforce2 leader Scott Dean hugs his sons Jax (6yo) & Landon (8yo) and gingerly kisses his 1-year-old baby Maddox. For the past month working #Surfside he’s had just one day home with them. His wife Shaun, proudly beaming his way, says he’s ‘our hero’. pic.twitter.com/axCRxZEiXW— Christina Boomer Vazquez (@CBoomerVazquez) July 23, 2021
#Voices from #Surfside: For the last month of her 4mo daughter’s life #FL #taskforce2 member Nichole Notte has been on 12hr shifts engaged in grueling work to find the missing. She says the emotional toll was most difficult…processing what she saw, missing her baby Luca at home. pic.twitter.com/pBcphDguNo— Christina Boomer Vazquez (@CBoomerVazquez) July 23, 2021
WPLG reported that task force members were led in a procession to the City of Miami Fire Rescue Headquarters, where they were met with a water-cannon salute.
Cava in her Friday statement commended the efforts of rescue workers, who she said “ran into a collapsed building on the early morning of June 24 and haven't stopped since.”
“They are true superheroes who have stepped up to serve this community in the wake of unprecedented disaster — not just by leading the search and rescue and recovery operation but through the care and compassion they demonstrated to all the families, doing everything they could to bring closure to those who lost loved ones,” she added.
She also commended the police department, which she said has “been leading the investigation since the beginning, and now continues the challenging work of continuing to sift through millions of pounds of debris, searching for remains and personal items to bring closure to families."
City officials have continued to update residents throughout the rescue and recovery efforts, eventually identifying a total of 242 people accounted for since the 12-story building partially collapsed early in the morning on June 24.
Several lawsuits have been filed against the building's condominium association, alleging that it failed to maintain the structure's safety and did not quickly act to repair damage, including in the condo’s garage level.
A judge ruled Wednesday that the victims and families of the condo collapse would receive an initial compensation of $150 million, as well as money expected to come from the sale of the property.
The settlement this week is separate from the sums of money that the plaintiffs in the various lawsuits could receive from their cases.