The search for bodies at the site of the Surfside, Florida condo collapse has come to an end, with firefighters and search crews recognized at a ceremony on Friday.
The June 24 collapse killed 97 people — 96 bodies were pulled from the debris and one died at a hospital after being removed — and one person who is missing has still not been identified among the remains.
Officials said there were no more bodies found in the rubble, but investigators are continuing to sift through the debris where it is now housed in separate locations. Aside from the initial hours of searching after the building collapsed, no more people were found alive.
Estelle Hedaya, the 54-year-old who is believed to be the last victim, remains unaccounted for, though officials have not specified whether a remaining body has been found or is awaiting DNA testing. Hedaya would bring the death toll to 98.
“As we enter month two alone, without any other families, we feel helpless,” Hedaya’s brother, Ikey Hedaya, told The Associated Press.
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky recognized the grueling work of the firefighters who have worked in 12-hour shifts during the last four weeks on Friday. Rescue crews struggled through Florida’s heat and thunderstorms and fire within the building.
“It’s obviously devastating. It’s obviously a difficult situation across the board,” Cominsky said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the men and women that represent Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.”
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The rescue teams departed the site of the collapse in a procession of firetrucks and other vehicles and made their way to Fire Rescue headquarters where they announced in a press conference that the search was ended.
“Providing closure to families was the ultimate test of everybody here, and I think we did our best to do that,” said Scott Dean, the leader of one of the task forces charged with search, rescue and recovery.
“It was extremely grueling,” Nichole Notte, task force member, told local Miami station WPLG. “Especially having a baby at home and seeing the things that we have seen, it’s hard. It’s harder. It’s personal.”
Contributing: The Associated Press