‘Waiting is torture’: NY natives among missing in Florida building collapse

National News

NEW YORK — A woman who previously lived in New York is among the 159 people missing after a Florida building partially collapsed Thursday morning.

Judy Spiegel was staying at the Surfside condo when a portion of the 12-story building collapsed into rubble.

Her daughter, Rachel Spiegel, told PIX11 News she last spoke with her mother the night before the collapse, noting it was a “positive conversation.”

The Spiegels lived on Long Island and in Westchester County before eventually settling in Florida.

They had bought the condo at the Champlain Towers South about 4.5 years ago. Judy Spiegel, 65, had been staying there full time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Judy Spiegel was alone at the condo at the time of the incident. Her husband was away on business when the collapse occurred.

Rachel Spiegel described her mom, who has three children and three grandchildren, as “the most selfless person” who didn’t have a bad bone in her body.

She also said her father knew some things were going on in the building. Inspections and codes needed to be evaluated, but because of COVID, the building had been getting exemptions.

Linda March only recently moved from New York to Surfside.

March, 58, was described as a “nice, sweet, kind person,” by a former law school classmate, who said he feels helpless.

“I texted her,” he said. “I am still waiting. Hopefully she will text me back.”

Much of the Champlain’s beach side sheared off for unknown reasons, pancaking into a pile of concrete and metal more than 30 feet high.

As of Friday morning, 159 people were still unaccounted for. 

Three bodies were pulled from the rubble overnight, bringing the death toll to four, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Raide Jadallah, an assistant Miami-Dade County fire chief, said rescue operations continued throughout the night. He said that 130 firefighters are working at the site. Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said they are working with the medical examiner’s office to identify four victims.

About half the building’s roughly 130 units were affected, and rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the wreckage in the first hours after the collapse. Heavy equipment was brought in to help stabilize the structure to give them more access, Jadallah said.

The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, and while the building keeps a lot of guests, it does not keep track of when owners are in residence, Burkett said. The Argentine Consulate in Miami said nine people missing in the collapse were from Argentina.

Rachel Spiegel said she was at the scene, calling it “horrific” and “indescribable.” She and her family are now left waiting for answers.

“Waiting is torture,” she said, adding that many questions have been racing through her mind, including “Why did this happen?” and why she didn’t ask her mom to stay over that night.

As they await any news on her mother, Spiegel said she’s “praying for a better day, praying for a better outcome.”

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