SURFSIDE, Fla. — A mother and daughter who paramedics said “should not be alive” after what they went through during the condo tower collapse are on the long road to recovery, a relative said Friday.
But the husband and father who lived with them remained among the missing after crews shifted their search and rescue efforts this week to a recovery operation.
Angela and Edgar Gonzalez were on the ninth floor of Champlain Towers South with their daughter Deven, 16, when it collapsed June 24 in the early morning. Another daughter was not home at the time.
“In the middle of the night, my daughter woke up because she heard a strange noise, and when she woke up, the building was shaking,” said Angela Gonzalez’s mother, Kathleen Gonzalez.
“She started screaming for them to get up and get out, and she just ran with her daughter, pulled her daughter by her arm, when they got out the front door, they didn’t even go five feet, and it fell down to one floor below,” she said.
Angela and Deven were separated, and as Deven screamed for her mother, Angela “crawled over and put her body on top of my granddaughter and they fell again all the way down to the third floor,” Gonzalez said.
She said paramedics and fire department workers have visited them several times and told them “they should not be alive” after what they went through.
Gonzalez said Angela’s pelvis was smashed and she suffered a collapsed lung, injuries to her spine and needed hip surgery.
“She was literally crushed, and it’s just amazing that she’s sitting up in the bed today,” she said.
Deven will be going to a physical rehabilitation center and will still need a year or two to fully recover, she said.
Her granddaughter’s femur was broken and a piece of metal pierced her skull.
In addition to the physical trauma that Angela and Deven are enduring, they and the rest of the family are struggling with the emotional pain of Edgar Gonzalez being missing for the last 15 days and counting.
All they can do is wait, but they had a minister with them when they gathered with other family members to share the devastating news that the search had moved into recovery mode.
Gonzalez said the family had been living in the building for about 15 years and would host large family gatherings there for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I mean, it just freaks me out. I could have lost 25 family members, you know, had this happened during the holidays,” she said.
Gonzalez has been staying at the Sextant Stays, where a hospitality company is providing free temporary housing, food and other items to families and survivors in Sunny Isles Beach.
“It’s been amazing,” Gonzalez said. “It literally left me open just to focus on them and go back and forth to the hospital.”
KC Holmes, an employee who has been helping families at Sextant Stays, said they have tried to give everyone “a safe space” to stay and make them feel welcome.
“I think what’s been the most difficult part is watching the sorrow, the pain, the loss,” she said. “I pray with them.” Amid all the darkness, there was one ray of light: Their family cat, Binx, was found alive and “without a scratch on it,” Gonzalez said.
On Friday, the death toll stood at 79.”This is a staggering and heartbreaking number that affects all of us very deeply,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava at a news conference.
Miami-Dade police said Friday that among the victims identified were Vishal Patel, 42, and his wife, Bhavna, 38. Their 1-year-old daughter, Aishani, remains missing. Relatives said Bhavna Patel was five months pregnant.
Gita Patel, Vishal’s aunt, who has also been staying at Sextant Stays, said earlier this week the family wanted to focus on “keeping the good memories with us.”
Those memories included Aishani’s recent birthday and finally getting to meet her after the pandemic kept members of the family apart. The little girl played with the family members she was meeting for the first time.
“She’s a beautiful baby,” Patel said. “We really had good times.”