A young boy who was rescued from the rubble of the 12-story Miami beach apartment building that collapsed on Wednesday night has been named as 15-year-old Jonah Handler.
Jonah, 15, was pulled from the wreckage by first responders along with the help of man who was walking his dog just as the building came down, Nicholas Balboa.
The boy’s mother is among the nearly 160 people who remained unaccounted for after the collapse as of Friday morning.
Describing the moment he spotted Jonah, Balboa said it appeared the boy was sleeping when the building came down.
‘There was a bed frame and a mattress that were laying above him, so I could only assume that that was his bed, judging by the size of the mattress,’ Balboa told Local10.
‘You know, so he was probably just sleeping and then all of a sudden the building gave way.’
The young boy who was been pulled alive from the rubble of the 12-story Miami beach apartment building that collapsed on Wednesday night, has been named as 15-year-old Jonah Handler.
Jonah Handler, 15, was carried out of the rubble by multiple first responders
Video from the scene showed firefighters pulling Jonah Handller from the rubble
The teen stuck his hand up through the rubble and was spotted amongst the rubble.
‘He was saying: “Please don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me.” So I told him: “We’re right here. We won’t leave you.” That’s when I tried to signal police officers and firefighters to get over there,’ Balboa said.
Video from the scene showed the boy being carried out by firefighters on a stretcher after the Champlain Towers South beachfront building collapsed at about 1.30am on Thursday in Miami’s Surfside neighborhood.
The boy, a 10th grader at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, was then taken to hospital with broken bones.
‘He said his mother was in the apartment with him, so I couldn’t see her or hear her, so I have no idea what her status was, but I do pray that she is alright,’ Balboa said.
‘As for him, you know, he’s a guardian angel. That’s all I can say. Given what happened, he came out unscathed.’
Video from the scene showed Handler being rescued by fire crews after the Champlain Towers South beachfront building collapsed at about 1.30am on Thursday
Nicholas Balboa spoke to CNN about his role in rescuing the child from the collapsed building in Miami overnight
Looking at the rubble, Balboa said he thought of the September 11 attacks and likened the scene opening before his eyes to something ‘out of a horror movie.’
‘I was thinking to myself, ‘How could anyone survive?” he said.
Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, told the Miami Herald that rescuers saved a mother and child, but the woman’s leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble.
It was not clear whether the child mentioned by Rollason was the same boy who was rescued by Balboa and seen in the video.
He was among the 35 rescued from the damaged building in the early stages of the rescue operation.
About 160 people were still unaccounted for on Friday morning as searchers using both big machines and their hands to comb through a twisted, shifting heap of concrete and metal with fears the death toll of at least four could go much higher.
With scores of firefighters working overnight to reach any possible survivors both from under and atop the remains of the building, hopes rested on how quickly crews using dogs and microphones to sift through the wreckage could complete their grim, yet delicate task.
‘Every time we hear a sound, we concentrate on those areas,’ said Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raide Jadallah.
Rescue workers remove a body from the rubble where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed, in the Surfside area of Miami
Pelted by intermittent rain showers, two heavy cranes began removing debris from the pile using large claws Friday morning, creating a din of crashing glass and metal as they picked up material and dumped it to the side. Once the machines paused, fire crews moved in to remove smaller pieces by hand.
Amid the work, Faydah Bushnaq knelt on the beach near the building’s remains and scratched ‘Pray for their souls’ in the sand.
‘We were supposed to be on vacation, but I have no motivation to have fun,’ said Bushnaq of Sterling, Virginia. ‘It is the perfect time to say a prayer for them.’
Three more bodies were removed overnight, and Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said authorities were working with the medical examiner´s office to identify the victims. Eleven injuries were reported, with four people treated at hospitals.
Rescue workers search through the rubble where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed in the Surfside area of Miami
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescuers were at “extreme risk” going through the rubble.
“Debris is falling on them as they do their work. We have structural engineers on site to ensure that they will not be injured, but they are proceeding because they are so motivated and they are taking extraordinary risk on the site every day,” she said.
With searchers using saws and jackhammers to look for pockets large enough to hold a person, Levine Cava said there was still hope of finding people alive.
Those missing from what was left of the 12-story Champlain Towers South included people from around the world: a beloved retired Miami-area teacher and his wife. Orthodox Jews from Russia. Israelis. The sister of Paraguay´s first lady. Others from South America.
State Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami Beach told the Miami Herald he watched as tactical teams of six worked early Friday to sift through the debris. He said he saw one body taken in a yellow body bag and another that was marked. They were taken to a homicide unit tent that was set up along the beach.
Rescue workers look through the rubble where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed
Many people remained at the reunification center set up near the collapse site early Friday morning, awaiting results of DNA swabs that could help identify victims.
Officials said no cause for the collapse has been determined.
Video of the collapse showed the center of the building appearing to tumble down first and a section nearest to the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later, as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.
About half the building´s roughly 130 units were affected, and rescuers used cherry-pickers to evacuate at least 35 people from the still-intact areas of the building in the first hours after the collapse. But with 159 still unaccounted for, work could go on for days.
Television video early Friday showed crews still fighting flareups of fires on the rubble piles. Intermittent rain over South Florida is also hampering the search.
Jadallah said that while listening devices placed on and in the wreckage had picked up no voices, they had detected possible banging noises, giving rescuers hope some are alive. Rescuers were tunneling into the wreckage from below, going through the building’s underground parking garage.
“It could be just steel twisting, it could be debris raining down, but not specifically sounds of tapping or sounds of a human voice,” Jadallah said during a news conference Friday morning.
A view of a building is shown after a partial collapse. A wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed with a roar in a town outside Miami early Thursday, trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal
This aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed early Thursday
Rescue teams are currently using machinery, dogs and sound technology to help trawl the wreckage for any more survivors.
Authorities fear many more people may be dead or remain trapped under the rubble and warned the recovery efforts could last an entire week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said rescue teams had made contact with some survivors by mid-morning but did not elaborate on where they were located or if they had been rescued.
‘Right now, we have the fire rescue. They are in search and rescue mode. They are trying to identify survivors, I know they have made contact with some, and I know they are doing everything they can to save lives,’ he said.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman said officials have yet to account for as many as 99 people who are believed to have lived in the building. It was unclear whether any, or all of them, were inside at the time of the collapse.
He was placed on a stretcher before being carried away from the scene
DeSantis and other authorities said earlier that they were bracing for bad news in terms of survivors given the level of destruction.
‘The building has literally pancaked,’ Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.
‘That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.’
Authorities say the building was ‘substantially full’ when it collapsed. Of the building’s 136 apartments, 55 were destroyed.
The tower, which is located one block away from where Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump currently live, has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents. Mayor Burkett said the building keeps a log of guests staying but does not keep track of when owners are in residence.
Crowds of people were gathering at a family reunification center set up nearby as they awaited news on their family and friends.
Authorities have not yet determined what caused the building to collapse but confirmed that renovations had been underway on the roof in recent weeks.
A huge emergency search and rescue operation is underway
Burkett said it was unlikely that the roof work had anything to do with the collapse, instead describing it as a ‘catastrophic failure’ of the building.
‘It’s hard to imagine how this could have happened,’ Burkett said. ‘Buildings just don’t fall down.
‘There’s no reason for this building to go down like that unless someone literally pulls the supports out from underneath.’
Burkett suggested that potential causes could be the result of the foundations being washed out or a sinkhole.
The Miami-Dade Police have assumed control of the investigation as to why the building collapsed.
The collapse, which appeared to affect one leg of the L-shaped tower, tore away walls and left a number of homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed in what looked like a giant dollhouse.
Bunk beds, tables and chairs could be seen still left inside the damaged apartments. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building where wires now dangled.
Photos and video from the scene show the collapse affected half the tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building.
The debris from the collapse coated cars up to two blocks away with a light layer of dust.
Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo on Thursday
Search and rescue personnel with a K9 unit work in the rubble in search of survivors