Man from New Jersey, family barely escape Florida tower collapse

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Rescue crews continue to search for survivors despite a fire within the rubble hampering their efforts, the mayor of Miami-Dade County said. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

HARTFORD, Conn. — UConn pitcher Justin Willis is describing the close call his family had when a Miami-area apartment tower collapsed early Thursday.

The 22-year-old from West New York, New Jersey, says he and his sister were watching television in an apartment on the 11th floor when they heard the building shake. When they saw dust and debris rising up, they went out into the hall and saw two holes where the elevators once were.

Willis, his sister and parents were able to make their way down 11 flights of stairs and helped an elderly woman descend from the third floor.

Willis estimates he and his sister were about 15 feet away from where the edge of the building collapsed.

The death toll from the high-rise building collapse in Surfside, Florida rose to nine on Sunday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

Four days after Thursday’s collapse, more than 150 people remain unaccounted for, and authorities and loved ones fear the toll will go much higher.

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