A woman who is among the 156 missing from the Miami condo collapse last week called her husband saying that she had just seen the swimming pool of the building cave in and screamed "bloody murder" seconds before the Champlain Towers fell down. The line then went dead and she has since been missing, according to a new report.
Model Cassondra Billedeau-Stratton said in a phone call with her husband Mike Stratton that she had seen a sinkhole where their pool used to be and terrified something horrible was going to happen to her. The Washington Post reported that Stratton was on her fourth-floor balcony when she felt a tremor and saw the pool deck cave in.
Desperate Last Call
Billedeau-Stratton, 40, had felt a sudden shaking from her fourth-floor balcony and fanatically called her husband screaming before saying that there was a sinkhole. "It was 1:30 a.m., I'll never, never forget that," Mike Stratton told the Miami Herald.
Billedeau-Stratton, who is a model, actress and Pilates instructor, also has an apartment on the Upper East Side of New York City, according to a close friend. However, she was in Miami on that that night and woke her husband in Washington, DC, anticipating that something dangerous was about to happen, according to the outlet.
Stratton, who was in Denver on that night when the call came in, said that Billedeau-Stratton screamed for help as the pool caved in. "She screamed bloody murder and that was it," Stratton told Billedeau-Stratton's older sister Ashley Dean. Dean told the Washington Post that her sister "knew something was wrong" in the days before the collapse as she had complained to her family about water damage in the building and heavy equipment being lifted to the roof for repairs.
Billedeau-Stratton is among the 156 people who are missing after the 12-story condominium building in suburban Miami collapsed early Thursday morning. Eleven deaths have been confirmed so far.
Stratton said he's pinning his hopes on search-and-rescue teams from Israel, as they dig through rubble. "Nothing new, they're just working hard, digging more," Stratton said of the on-going search efforts on Monday afternoon. "These Israeli guys are like excavation commandos and they're doing their thing."
However, Billedeau-Stratton's sister Ashley Dean has almost given up hope. "I want to have hope," she said, "but I'm a realist. I don't want to hold on to false dreams."
Last year, the Champlain Towers was inspected by a structural engineer. He told CNNthat the hole seen by Billedeau-Stratton "definitely" could have been a factor in the sudden collapse. That said, the search operation is on but most of the families of the victims are giving up home.
Cookie Patten, 52, of Manhattan, who is a close friend of Billedeau-Stratton, told the New York Post that the two met during a two-year acting conservatory program from 2007 to 2009 at New York City's William Esper Studio â which boasts alums like Amy Schumer, Larry David and Jeff Goldblum.
"She's one of the strongest human beings I've ever known," both physically and mentally, Patten said.
"I look at the building and I know exactly where her apartment was and it's just not there," Patten said. Still, "If anyone can come out of this it's Cassie."
Billedeau-Stratton, who loved walking and biking along the beach, moved to New York after she "lost everything" in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. She and her husband traveled a lot between their homes but the model lived in New York 75 percent of the time before the pandemic. After the COVID-19 crisis began, Stratton chose to stay in their Florida apartment to get away from the packed city.
The husband last saw his wife on Monday of last week when he left south Florida for a business trip to Washington, D.C. "She was the most fun, vivacious person you could ever imagine," he told the outlet as his voice cracked with emotion.