Police identify final missing victim from Surfside condo collapse, which killed 98

Miami-Dade County identified the last known victim of the Surfside condominium collapse and spent more than a month recovering the bodies and remains of the missing from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South complex.
Estelle Hedaya, 54, lived on the sixth floor of the 12-story apartment complex and was the last of 98 people killed in the collapse and not officially identified. Miami-Dade police identified her as a Surfside collapse victim Monday afternoon after Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference that the 98th Surfside victim had been identified.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, along with fellow county officials, briefed on the search and recovery operation after the Surfside collapse during a press conference at Miami-Dade Emergency Operations in Doral, Fla., On Monday July 26th -Building. 2021.
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"Together, I pray that we can begin the long healing process," Levine Cava told reporters at the county emergency center in Doral.
Hedaya, an executive at a jewelry trading company, has been described by friends and family as funny, upbeat, and committed to her Jewish faith.
A friend from her time in New York two decades ago, Kerie Stone, recalled Hedaya's confidence as they both recovered from similar medical procedures. Hedaya was soon back at work and in the gym, leaving Stone grateful for her reunion with "someone you never wanted to lose again."
Hedaya's optimism was expressed in her lifestyle blog “Follow the Toes”, which focused on her solo trips, spa days, and shopping - as well as essays on personal challenges.
“Positivity is not easy. This is especially true in challenging times, "wrote Hedaya in a post on April 28, 2020 about the isolation at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. "I've seen several friends deal with immense pain by drawing on their faith, and they have inspired me."
While county authorities were confident Hedaya was killed in the collapse, she was officially missing when the search ended at the collapse site at 8777 Collins Ave.
The search continued on secured property at Miami International Airport, where investigators searched tons of debris that was being relocated by trucks from Surfside. As the weeks went on, police said it became more difficult to identify the remains. Of the 98 dead, 97 were found in the rubble of the Champlain Towers; The first known victim died in hospital on June 24 from injuries sustained in the collapse.
Hedaya was the last name on the police department's list of missing persons believed to be in Champlain Towers when she fell just after 1 a.m. on June 24th. Freddy Ramirez, the district police director, said police recovered Hedaya's remains on July 20 and found her in the midst of the relocated debris. Ramirez said the coroners worked until Monday to identify the remains as Hedaya.
Following the identification of Hedaya, Ramirez said investigators will no longer be able to track missing persons after the collapse, but that the search for remains at the rubble site will continue.
"We are still working on the mountains of evidence," he said, adding that the agency is not "excluding" anything that can still be found from the collapse rubble. "We'll keep going until we think we've done all we can."
Miami-Dade Police Department director Alfredo Ramirez III, along with fellow district officials, gave an update on the search and recovery operation following the Surfside collapse during a press conference at Miami-Dade Emergency Operations in Doral, Fla., On Monday, July -Building 02/26/2021.
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Miami-Dade Police Department maintains two databases that catalog personal items found in the rubble - one from the rubble of the collapsed Champlain South building, the other from the tower that remained standing but was found on Nov. July was demolished for security reasons. The goal is to return the items to the surviving residents and the families of the dead.
On Monday, Linda Hedaya, Estelle's mother, said she was "overwhelmed and distraught" after her daughter's identification ended the Surfside search for the missing.
"We appreciate everything everyone has done," said Linda Hedaya. "The people were as good and friendly as they could be."
The family is hoping for a funeral on Tuesday, but their daughter's remains were still in the care of the District Medical Office as of Monday afternoon. After the funeral, the family begins the seven-day process of Shiva, or Jewish ritual mourning.
"We're just waiting for her to come home," said Linda Hedaya.

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