A Miami firefighter was working at the site of the Florida building collapse when a crew of search workers recovered the body of his 7-year-old daughter from the rubble of the Florida condo collapse, a report said Friday. The little girl has been identified as Stella Cattarossi, who lived in apartment 501 at Champlain Towers South in Surfside with her mother.
The girl was inside the room with her mother on June 24, when the building collapsed, according to a report by WPLG-TV. According to officials, Stella's body was found on Thursday, seven days after the collapse of Champlain South Tower which has left 22 confirmed dead and 126 still missing.
Innocent Life Lost
Stella's body was recovered from the rubble, while her father, Enrique Arango, was among the search responders at the site of the collapsed building. He was conducting a search and rescue operation just a few feet away at that time on Thursday.
Many of the family's friends posted online that Stella was sleeping alongside her mother Graciela, when the building collapsed. However, it is not known authorities whether the mother's body has been found. Authorities are yet to confirm about Graciela.
Arango, a 10-year veteran was present at the site with his brother. "When he was made aware that we were close to where his loved one may have been, then he stood side by side with some of his other fellow firefighters," Miami Rescue Dapt. Ignatius Carroll told WPLG.
"We were able to bring her and then at least give him an opportunity to say his farewells," Carroll added.
One of the rescuers, who did not want to be named, said that it was a heart-wrenching moment as the father stood still in grief for a few minutes. Arango then stepped forward and used his jacket to cover his daughter's body, placed a small US flag over her, and carried her out of the area, the station said.
According to reports, besides Stella's mom Graciela, her grandparents, Graciela and Gino Cattarossi, were also in the apartment at the time of the collapse. The girl's aunt, Andrea Cattarossi, who was visiting from Argentina, was also present inside the apartment, the outlet said. None of the other family members have been found yet.
Andrea has three sons who stay in Argentina. A friend posted online: "RIP my beautiful friend Graciela Cattarossi and precious little Stella. I just learned that the two of you were recovered last night sleeping together. You were inseparable."
A GoFundMefor the family explained that Graciela and Stella moved in with the girl's grandparents Graciela and Gino soon after she was born. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the girl's death during the briefing, saying that "these are tough things" for the workers to deal with.
"Obviously we focus on the families and rightfully so, but our folks have gone through a lot that are out there," the governor said.
At an emotional briefing near the site on Friday, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez confirming the discovery of Stella's body said, "The City of Miami Fire Department has lost a seven-year-old daughter of one of our own firefighters," he said.
The mayor put a personal note into the tragic discovery, adding: "I am the father of two children and I have a seven-year-old son and the thought of losing him in this way is unimaginable. This tragedy has haunted so many of us because so many of us know someone who has been in the building or affected by this tragedy ... now it is a member of our fire service, our family."
The tragic discovery came as rescue efforts resumed after Florida officials temporarily halted operations earlier on Thursday out of fear the remaining tower at the site could cause further collapse.
So far, 22 people have now been confirmed dead at the scene following the discovery of Stella's body, with 126 still missing since the building fell shortly before 1:30 am on June 24. Two other children, sisters Emma Guara, 4, and her 11-year-old sister, Lucia Guara, were pulled from the rubble on Wednesday.