Jonah Handler and his Mother Stacie Fang were the only ones in their apartment when the Champlain Towers South building collapsed last week. The teenage boy was pulled out of the rubble after the Surfside, Florida building collapse. There are at least four people confirmed dead, including Stacie Fang, Jonah Handler’s mother.
“There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,” members of her family said in a statement that Lisa Mozloom released on their behalf. Lisa Mozloom is a friend of the family, and has said that Jonah Handler is in the hospital, but in “stable” condition. The boy, who was rescued last week, is 15 years old. He is surrounded by family and friends as he recovers from his physical injuries. His mother, Stacie Fang, 54, passed away shortly after arriving at Aventura Hospital Thursday. She was buried yesterday in New Jersey.
The family requested privacy “on behalf of Stacie’s son, Jonah,” saying it needed time to “to grieve and to try to help each other heal.”
The video of Jonah Handler’s rescue went viral and has been played on almost every major news station. It’s been hard trying to find survivors of the collapse. Authorities have announced this weekend that four were killed in the collapse, while 159 are currently unaccounted for. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed that 127 people are accounted for.
Emergency workers pulled Handler from the tangled debris of the Champlain Towers South Condo not long after a section of the 12-story building collapsed early Thursday. Video taken from the scene shows first responders lifting Jonah Handler up and placing him on a stretcher.
“At first I thought it was a thunderstorm but then I felt a shake and I knew thunder doesn’t make the ground shake,” Nicholas Balboa told USA TODAY. “I knew it wasn’t normal so I decided to figure out what was going on.”
That’s when Nicholas Balboa found Jonah Handler under a pile of glass and rebar. Balboa said it looked like a wall or a support beam fell on the boy. Police and first responders were not yet on the scene when Balboa and another stranger approached the collapse. After hearing a scream and seeing a small, waving hand emerge from the rubble, Balboa knew he had to go help.
“He was saying, ‘Please don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me.’ So I told him, ‘We’re right here. We won’t leave you.’ That’s when I tried to signal police officers and firefighters to get over there,” Balboa said when he first found the teenager.
It is still uncertain how many victims of the collapse have died as first responders and authorities are still digging through the rubble this morning. CNN reported early Monday morning that at least 9 people are confirmed to have died in the collapse. Expert engineers are still trying to make sense of the disaster.
Balboa said he was heartbroken to learn of Fang’s death. “I lost my mom recently, so I know how it’s going to be,” he said.