Emergency rescue teams handling the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside pulled Marcus Guara’s body from the rubble Saturday and identified him Monday, according to Miami-Dade Police. He is one of the 12 victims confirmed dead. His wife, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and daughters, Lucia Guara, 11, and Emma Guara, 4 are still missing according to WPLG, along with the 142 people still unaccounted for.
Marcus Guara’s cousin Peter Milián said the family is “extremely grateful” to the first responders who are working on the search-and-rescue effort. The tragedy has united this community under unfortunate circumstances.
“We’re realistic, but we always pray for a miracle,” Milián said.
Marcus and his family had been attending St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, just three blocks from their condo building. On Sunday, in front of a crowd of about 70 parishioners, Father Juan Sosa listed the names of church members who were reported by friends and family as missing in the collapse, including Guara, during a pretty bleak Mass.
Sosa, who has been the church’s pastor for nearly a decade, said he recognized Marcus and the rest of the Guara family from Mass when he saw their pictures on television after the collapse. “They were very connected to the church community,” he said.
Marcus Guara’s cousin said that “he was a great brother, uncle, cousin, son, and loved his daughters passionately. He loved life.”
Marcus isn’t the only one who will be missed. Eleven other victims have been recovered and identified. Among them was Stacie Fang, one of the first to be recovered on June 24th. Her son was Jonah Handler, the 15-year-old who was dramatically saved from the rubble.
Luis Andres Bermudez, was a 26-year-old artist who designed and ran a sushi-themed clothing line. He is the son of Ana Ortiz, 46, who was also recovered. Ana was described by friends as a hard-working, dedicated mom who loved her son. She went missing along with her son and husband Frank Kleiman. The three of them have been recovered and confirmed dead. Frank, 55, has four children. Frank, along with his wife and stepson lived on the 7th floor together.
Another married couple, Antonio Lozano, 83, and wife Gladys Lozano, 79, have been married for 59 years, were ID’ed on June 25. The couple’s son, Sergio Lozano, said he lived in the tower across from his parents and had dinner with them the night before the deadly disaster.
“It’s tragic but it’s strangely unsettling that I have peace knowing they would constantly play argue about who would pass first,” Brian Lozano, their grandson, told ABC News in a statement. “But in the end… they got what they both wanted. Each other.”
Recovered June 26 was a couple that hailed from Venezuela. Christina Beatriz Elvira Oliwkowicz, 74, and her husband Leon Oliwkowicz, 80. Although they recently moved to Surfside, Florida, they were active and generous members of the Jewish community in Chicago.
Then there was Manuel LaFont, a 54-year-old business consultant lived in unit 801. He had a 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. Michael David Altman lived in unit 1101 of the Champlain Towers South building for more than six years. The condo unit has been in the family since the 1980s.
Identifying Champlain Towers South victims is a complicated process. It can be as easy as a rapid DNA test, but it all depends on the condition of the remains found. Miami-Dade Police Department Director Alfredo Ramirez III said that crime scene investigators and staff from the medical examiner’s office are on the scene, along with firefighters, for when a body is found. Law enforcement has asked relatives of those who are missing to submit DNA to help identify the bodies and human remains pulled from the rubble.
A DNA profile match can be made in less than two hours. But results have to be verified via a secondary protocol at the lab, in order to not misidentify the victims. “The moment that sample is taken, that detective, that analyst will run directly to the family unification center, where it’s entered into a system,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez explained that when rapid DNA testing is possible, the whole process is typically completed within a day. The director assures that the process is done with respect and integrity. “It’s very emotional,” he said. “What we’ve gone through here, I think we’re all family now.” He adds that they are “dealing with a very terrible situation here. That’s why we have to … always keep mindful of our family members that are listening and watching right now.”
At a press briefing, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava revealed that they actually had to relocate the family unification center to a larger space in order to accommodate the influx of family and friends of the victims.