Funeral for family of four is the first for victims in Florida condo collapse

Southeast

Pallbearers wheel a casket before a funeral service for Marcus Guara and his family at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Miami Beach, Fla. Guara, his wife Anaely, and daughters Lucia and Emma, died in the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in nearby Surfside. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP)

SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) — Mourners filed into a Miami Beach church on Tuesday to memorialize the lives of two young children and their parents in the first funeral for victims of the condominium building collapse nearly two weeks ago.

Three black Cadillac hearses carried the bodies of Marcus Guara, 52, his wife Ana Guara, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, to St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Pallbearers took two white caskets and one blue casket into the church. The two children were placed together in one of the white caskets at the family’s request.

The family died when roughly half of the 12-story Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida collapsed in the early hours of June 24.

They are among the 32 confirmed dead from the disaster, based on updated figures disclosed by officials on Tuesday. Some 113 people are still missing as rescue workers battle high winds from approaching Tropical Storm Elsa. Officials still have not determined what caused the 40-year-old building to collapse.

Marcus Guara had just started a new job in November as a sales manager for a maker of towels and linens and often raised funds for charities, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to his Facebook account.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told a briefing that strong winds from Elsa as the storm approaches from the south have made emergency workers’ task more difficult.

“The wind is hampering the large cranes moving very heavy debris,” Burkett said, adding that he met with a family hoping rescuers will find their daughter, a recent law school graduate who married in January, and their son-in-law.

Experts and officials have warned that the probability of finding survivors was remote given how much time has passed.

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Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescuers have not found any “livable spaces.” He said workers had removed more than 124 tons, or 5 million pounds, of debris to date.

Forecasters predicted the area will be spared the worst of the storm. Still, concerns over the impact of Elsa prompted officials to order the demolition of the half of building that had been left standing, which was carried out on Sunday night.

A 2018 engineering report found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries that include a grand jury examination.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava cautioned that it could take some time to find the root cause.

“The whole world wants to know what happened here,” Cava told the briefing. “I look forward to learning the truth.”

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