Firefighters on Friday declared the end of their search for bodies at the site of a collapsed Florida condo building, concluding a month of painstaking work removing layers of dangerous debris that were once piled several stories high.
The June 24 collapse at the oceanside Champlain Towers South killed 97 people, with at least one more missing person yet to be identified.
The site has been mostly swept flat and the rubble moved to a Miami warehouse. Although forensic scientists are still at work, including examining the debris at the warehouse, there are no more bodies to be found where the building once stood.
Captain Eric Hernandez lifts up his daughter Isabella, 3, as his wife Yaimara and son Eric, 4, look on, as members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's urban search and rescue team are reunited with their families after weeks of working on the rubble pile at the collapsed Champlain TowersInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Isabella, 3, and Eric, 4, wait to welcome home their father, Capt. Eric Hernandez
Photos showing the cleaned up area where the Surfside Condos was located
It took just under a month to have the entire site completely cleared away
Twenty-six million pounds of rubble was moved offsite where the recovery effort continues to identify the remains of one victim still unaccounted for
BEFORE: Rescue and recovery workers had spent nearly four weeks combing through and removing the rubble of the building. It is pictured on June 24 the day of its collapseInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Except during the early hours after the collapse, survivors never emerged. Search teams spent weeks battling the hazards of the rubble, including an unstable portion of the building that teetered above, a recurring fire and Florida's stifling summer heat and thunderstorms.
They went through more than 14,000 tons of broken concrete and rebar, often working boulder by bounder, rock by rock, before finally declaring the mission complete.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's urban search-and-rescue team pulled away from the site Friday in a convoy of firetrucks and other vehicles, slowly driving to their headquarters for a news conference to announce that the search was officially over.
'At this step in the recovery process it has become increasingly challenging to identify victims, and we are relying heavily on the work of the medical examiner's office and the scientific, technical process of identifying human remains,' Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a statement.
Enrique Calvo greets his son Enrique, 2, as his wife Joceline looks on, as members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's urban search and rescue team are reunited with their families
A rescue worker greets his loved ones following almost a month of working on the site
Enrique Calvo greets his sons Alec, 6, Enrique, 2, and wife Joceline, as members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's urban search and rescue team are reunited
She hailed members of the search and recovery teams as 'true superheroes.'
At a ceremony, Fire Chief Alan Cominsky saluted the firefighters who worked 12-hour shifts while camping out at the site.
'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.'
'Providing closure to families was the ultimate test of everybody here,' Scott Dean, leader of one of the two task forces that worked in 12-hour shifts at the disaster site, said at a welcome-home gathering at Fire and Rescue headquarters.
Officials have declined to clarify whether they have one additional set of human remains in hand that pathologists are struggling to identify or whether a search for that final set of remains continues.
Estelle Hedaya, 54, appears to be the only missing victim yet to be identified after the June 24 collapse
Family members wait for news over Estelle Hedaya, pictured, whose remains have not been identified
Well-wishers and mourners gather at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse, for a multi-faith vigil earlier this month
If found, Estelle Hedaya would bring the death toll to 98.
Hedaya was an outgoing 54-year-old who loved to travel and was fond of striking up conversations with strangers. Her younger brother Ikey has given DNA samples and visited the site twice to see the search efforts for himself.
'As we enter month two alone, without any other families, we feel helpless,' he said on Friday. He said he gets frequent updates from