Miami firefighter who scoured Surfside rubble to pull out his dead daughter sues condo board


Miami firefighter who scoured rubble of Surfside collapse to find daughter’s body sues condo board, alleges officials knew about building’s ‘deplorable conditions’ for years

  • The Miami firefighter who pulled out his dead 7-year-old daughter from the Surfside building collapse is suing the condo board responsible for the property 
  • Enrique Arango filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Tuesday for his daughter Estella Cattarossi, who died in the collapse
  • Building officials knew about ‘deplorable conditions’ at the property, including seawater in the garage, for years leading up to the tragedy, the suit states 
  • At 1:30am on June 24, just five minutes after the tower fell, Arango was at the firehouse when he heard about the then-burgeoning rescue effort over radio
  • 98 deaths have been confirmed after the 12-story building collapsed on June 24
  • Arango placed his fireman’s jacket over his deceased daughter before putting a miniature American flag on the gurney as her body was wheeled away 

Estella Cattarossi, 7, was killed when the Champlain Towers South collapsed on June 24

The Miami firefighter who recovered his 7-year-old daughter’s body while scouring rubble from the Surfside building collapse filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the property’s condo board in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Enrique Arango’s lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday and lists several companies ‘involved in the ownership, maintenance, restoration, management, inspection and oversight’ of Champlain Towers South as defendants, is seeking unspecified damages, according to first-responders news website Firehouse.

Arango’s daughter, Estella Cattarossi, lived in unit 501 at Champlain Towers South with her mother, Graciella, and her grandparents. Ninety-eight people were confirmed dead after the 12-story building collapsed on June 24.

Estella’s mother and grandparents, Gino and Graciella Cattarossi, all died in the collapse as well.

A 10-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Arango says in the lawsuit that building officials knew about ‘deplorable conditions’ there, including seawater in the garage, for years leading up to the tragedy.  

Pictured: Graciella Cattarossi (left) & daughter Estella (right)

Pictured: Graciella Cattarossi (left) & daughter Estella (right)

An aerial view of the site during a rescue operation of the Champlain Tower partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida

An aerial view of the site during a rescue operation of the Champlain Tower partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida

Around 1:30am, just five minutes after the Surfside tower fell, Arango was at the firehouse when he heard about the then-burgeoning rescue effort over radio.

‘He stood motionless waiting for the live feed to reveal the extent of the collapse, hoping the unit that housed his daughter was still standing. Tragically, it was not,’ the lawsuit reads.

Arango and his brother, also a firefighter, were both at the scene in less than an hour; the two worked for seven days trying to find Estella. 

‘Racing against the clock, they worked vigorously in the hopes that their efforts would assist in finding his daughter before it was too late,’ according to the suit. 

Estella Cattarossi, Arango's daughter, lived at Champlain Towers South with her mother and grandparents (pictured with grandfather Gino Cattarossi) who all died during the collapse

Estella Cattarossi, Arango’s daughter, lived at Champlain Towers South with her mother and grandparents (pictured with grandfather Gino Cattarossi) who all died during the collapse

Arango and his brother, also a firefighter, were both at the scene in less than an hour, where the two worked for days trying to find Estella

Arango and his brother, also a firefighter, were both at the scene in less than an hour, where the two worked for days trying to find Estella

A timeline of the tragic Surfside building collapse that left nearly 100 people dead, including Miami-Dade fireman Enrique Arango's 7-year-old daughter Estella

A timeline of the tragic Surfside building collapse that left nearly 100 people dead, including Miami-Dade fireman Enrique Arango’s 7-year-old daughter Estella

Arango was at the site when Estella’s body was pulled from the rubble the evening of July 1. 

Arango placed his fireman’s jacket over his deceased daughter and a miniature American flag on the gurney as her body was wheeled away, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

The total number of supposed dead was thought to be much higher in the days immediately after the collapse, with estimates of 150 plus casualties. However, that figure dropped to 98 after all of the building’s residents were identified and accounted for in late July.

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