‘I was going to leave Fernanda’s house to go home and take a shower and die,’ says Erick De Moura, whose girlfriend convinced him to stay at her place on the night of the collapse
As the dust settles on the wreckage of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, survivors of the building’s collapse are speaking out about their narrow escapes and guilt over outliving neighbors.
“Why did it happen that I wasn’t there in my apartment?” Jay Miller, a retired college professor who owned a condo in the building, told The Washington Post.
Mr Miller, 75, says he usually travels up to his Philadelphia home at the end of June, but this summer made the trip a little earlier. The change of plans – which he says he made randomly – ultimately his life.
“That was the place I usually would have been,” he told the Post. “I wasn’t there, and I made a decision to go away.”
Mr Miller is not alone. Erick De Moura, 40, also lived at the apartment complex, but narrowly escaped the disaster thanks to his girlfriend. After a night of watching soccer with her and some friends, Mr De Moura wanted to head home to Champlain Towers, but Ms Figueiredo persuaded him to stay over at her place. He was asleep at her apartment when the building came down.
“That night was unusual,” Mr De Moura told the Post. “I was going to leave Fernanda’s house to go home and take a shower and die.”
As the aftermath of the disaster drags on, more stories of near misses like these are emerging – along with the survivor’s guilt that often comes with them.
“There’s definitely a lot of pain at this moment,” Mr De Moura told CNN’s New Day. “I’m very grateful to be alive, but very sad for the tragedy of everybody.”
Mr Miller is still reeling from his survival story as well.
“It’s sort of like, you lose a friend, somebody dies – it’s a normal cycle of life,” he told the Post. “But when you’ve got all these people and you see people are dead and you should have been in there with them, and you weren’t – that’s kind of a really shocking thing for you and you think, ‘By all rights, I should have been there.’”
The narrowest escapes of all, however, were by the survivors who were inside the building when it collapsed.
Raysa Rodriguez, who lived on the ninth floor, was asleep when the building collapsed. In a lawsuit she’s now filed against the Champlain Towers South Condo Association, she tells her hair-raising story.
“I looked left to the North end of the building,” Ms Rodriguez wrote in the complaint, according to CNN. “A concrete column had pierced the hallway from floor to ceiling. I looked at the elevators. The elevator shafts were exposed, the doors were gone. I knocked on several neighbors’ doors, no answer. I run to the exit, open the doors that lead to the outside stairwell and saw the devastation. The beachside of Champlain had collapsed, pancaked. I screamed in horror.”
Ms Rodriguez and several of her neighbors gradually found their way to the second floor, where they were able to escape through an apartment’s balcony. But as the lawsuit states, her escape was extremely rare. At least eleven people died in the disaster, and more 150 are still missing.
“Raysa and her neighbors were four of the more fortunate victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse,” the complaint says.