The last victim of the condo building collapse in Florida was finally identified on Monday, July 26, closing the weeks-long search after the tragic mid-night catastrophe that took away 98 lives.
Estelle Hedaya, an outgoing 54-year-old with a passion for travel, was the last to be recognized as the victim of the Surfside Building collapse, capping what her family described as an excruciating four-week ordeal. Ikey Hedaya, her younger brother, confirmed the news on Monday, July 26.
“She always mentioned God anytime she was struggling with anything,” said Ikey, according to 9News.
“She had reached a different level spiritually, which allowed her to excel in all other areas,” he reminisced of his sister, adding that his sister’s funeral would take place on Tuesday.
Estelle Hedaya, along with her close friend, a 58-year-old ex-New Yorker and lawyer Linda March, were among the three last fatalities to be identified, reported Al Jazeera. The other victim was Anastasia Gromova, 24, from Canada.
Leah Sutton, who has known Hedaya from birth and considers herself a second mother to her, described both Hedaya and March as “forces to be reckoned with.”
“My two beautiful amazing fearless friends saved for last, have to believe there was a reason for them to be last,” she shared. “Estelle’s love of God was unbelievable and unwavering.”
Estelle’s discovery came only days after rescuers said that they had completed the arduous and emotionally draining work of clearing layers of the building’s debris and retrieving the remains of the victims.
“For the past 33 days they have searched the rubble as if they were searching for one of their own,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference Monday.
Last Friday on July 23, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s urban search-and-rescue team concluded their search for survivors after they recovered the bodies of 97 victims. The team left in a convoy of fire trucks and other vehicles as officials saluted their bravery. It was reported that they had worked through more than 14,000 tons of concrete and debris. Police have taken over the search for any remains or belongings in the rubble that has now been removed offsite.
While authorities are still investigating the reason for the early morning collapse, experts believe the issues sprang from a section of the pool at the building that was labeled “major structural damage” in a 2018 engineer’s report, said The New York Post.
Meanwhile, it has not been decided what will happen with the collapse site. Some tenants were considering rebuilding, but others thought it should be converted to a memorial in honor of the deceased. A judge had suggested selling the property at market rates, which is expected to bring about $100M or more.