Woman killed in Surfside collapse was visiting friend to celebrate new teaching job

Around the South

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) – Police have identified two more victims of the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse in Surfside.

On Wednesday, police said 24-year-old Anastasia Gromova and Linda March, 58, were identified.

Gromova, a Canadian from Montreal, had just been accepted to a program teaching English in Japan and was visiting the condo for one last hurrah with friend Michelle Pazos. Gromova’s body was recovered three days ago and was one of the last to be identified.

Her grieving family rushed from Canada after the collapse and had spent weeks in agony waiting in Miami.

“It just makes it real and hard but on a different level. At least we can move on now,” her sister Anna Gromova told The Associated Press, describing her sister as a bright star that fell fast. “We will remember her forever.”

Her parents said she was bright, always on the go, constantly smiling and unafraid to take on difficult challenges.

“It’s hard because you knew the loss was preventable and still nothing was prevented,” her sister said.

March’s body was recovered July 5, police said. Earlier this year, the successful attorney rented the furnished penthouse where pictures of white bunk beds hanging precariously close to the sheered off building made national headlines.

March, described as an outgoing person, had lost both her parents and sister in the past decade and had gotten a divorce and was looking for a new start in Miami, friends said.

The rubble that will be key evidence is being stored in a Miami-area warehouse, with the rest in nearby vacant lots, said the receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg. All of that will be preserved as possible evidence for the lawsuits and for other experts to review, he said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is leading a federal probe into the collapse, according to a receiver handling the finances on behalf of the condominium board.

“It may take years for their report to become public,” Goldberg said of the NIST probe.

The building was just undergoing its 40-year recertification process when it collapsed. That came three years after an engineer warned of serious structural issues needing immediate attention. Most of the concrete repair and other work had yet to be started.

There remain differences of opinion among condo owners about what to do with the site. Some want the entire condo rebuilt so they can move back in. Others say it should be left as a memorial site to honor those who died. A third suggestion is to combine both.

Owner Raysa Rodriguez, whose unit was on the ninth floor, said she couldn’t imagine going back into a building in a place where so many friends died.

“I personally would never set foot in a building. That’s a gravesite,” Rodriguez told the judge. “I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of everyone who perished.”

Oren Cytrynbaum, an attorney who is informally representing some fellow condo owners, said it was important to think creatively about the building sale, including whether requirements might be added such as a memorial of some kind for future developers.

“It shouldn’t be a traditional land sale,” Cytrynbaum said. “We’re not on one path.”

Hanzman, however, said time is of the essence because victims and families need money to begin rebuilding their lives.

“This is not a case where we have time to let grass grow underneath it,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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