SURFSIDE, Fla (NewsNation Now) — The body of a Miami firefighter’s 7-year-old daughter was recovered from the site of a South Florida condo collapse by the search and rescue team he had been assisting, officials said Friday.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez confirmed to the Miami Herald that the firefighter, who was not identified, was at the recovery site at the time, though he was not one of the workers digging through the rubble.
The firefighter and his brother, also a firefighter, have kept a vigil at the site since last week, waiting until the girl was discovered, the paper reported.
WPLG reports rescuers brought the child to her father, who draped his jacket over her body, placed an American flag on the gurney, and with her uncle, escorted the child’s body away from the collapse site and through a group of first responders who had lined up to pay their respects.
The Miami Fire Department is part of Task Force 2, which has been assisting in the search since the collapse. The firefighter voluntarily joined the search, officials said, hoping he could help find his daughter and others still missing in the wreckage.
Officials said the discovery was especially emotional for many of the first responders who have mounted an unprecedented around-the-clock effort to search for survivors, even as the odds have grown longer with each passing day.
“Every victim we remove is very difficult,” said Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky. “Last night was even more, when we were removing a fellow firefighter’s daughter. As firefighters, we do what we do – it’s kind of a calling. But it still takes a toll.”
The child was one of two victims found in the rubble of Champlain Towers South late Thursday, one week after the building partially collapsed. On Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the death toll now stands at 20, with 128 people still considered missing in the wreckage.
“It goes without saying that every night since this last Thursday has been immensely difficult, particularly for the families that have been impacted,” Levine Cava said during Friday morning’s news conference. “Last night was uniquely difficult. It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders. These men and woman are paying an enormous human toll each and every day, and I ask that all of you please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”
Earlier this week, the search teams found the remains of Emma Guara, 4; her sister Lucia, 10; and their parents, Marcus and Anaely Guara, in the wreckage. The family had lived in Apartment 802.
“Obviously, the firefighters are emotional,” Cominsky said. “You know it takes a toll.”
No one has been pulled alive from the debris since the initial hours after the 12-floor Champlain Towers South condo partially caved in on itself early on June 24 as residents slept.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.