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Voicemail captures survivor's panic as Miami condo building started to crumble

Raysa Rodriguez woke up to a thunderous bang and called her brother.

A newly-released voicemail captured one survivor's panic as the Miami Beach-area condo building that she called home started to crumble.

Raysa Rodriguez was asleep in unit 907 when she woke up to a thunderous bang and called her brother, Fred, about 1:30 a.m. June 24. A recording of her more than two-minute message was provided by The Moskowitz Law Firm, which is representing Rodriguez in a lawsuit against Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, which oversaw the 12-story building in Surfside.

She can be heard trying to figure out what’s happening.

“Anybody over there," Rodriguez asks at the beginning of the voicemail. "Hello? Who’s there?"

Two expletives are shouted. Alarms can be heard.

Twice, she addresses a neighbor named "Yadi" and asks, "You got him?"

Someone shouts Rodriguez's name.

“Yeah,” she responds.

Rodriguez talks about ways to escape.

“Let’s try the stairs, but wait,” she tells someone in Spanish.

She says she hears voices and has to check on people.

"Oh my God! What the hell!" Rodriguez screams. "Oh my God! Yadi! The whole entire building is gone."

Rodriguez again suggests taking the stairs. The voicemail ends with her repeating Yadi's name.

Rodriguez, Yadi and two other neighbors eventually made their way to unit 209, which had its front door open, according to the lawsuit. Firefighters rescued them from the balcony of that unit.

They are among the 139 residents who are accounted for, authorities said. The number of unaccounted for stands at 145 and includes Rodriguez's neighbors, Dick Augustine and Elaine Sabino, who lived in unit 1210.

Raysa Rodriguez, center, with her neighbors Dick Augustine and Elaine Sabino, who lived in apartment 1210 and are still unaccounted for.
Raysa Rodriguez, center, with her neighbors Dick Augustine and Elaine Sabino, who lived in apartment 1210 and are still unaccounted for.The Moskowitz Law Firm

On Wednesday, the bodies of two children, ages 10 and 4, were found at the site, bringing the death toll to 18. No more victims had been found as of Thursday afternoon.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed following the collapse, including one Monday by Rodriguez that seeks class-action status. She recounted in the complaint that the building "swayed like a sheet of paper."

Rodriguez said in the suit that a chunk of concrete had fallen from the parking garage ceiling and landed behind her parked car in the past, and she sent photos to the condo association.

Also earlier in the week, residents recounted how officials assured them the structure was safe, despite a report that strongly indicated otherwise.

Champlain Towers South resident Susana Alvarez repeated to NBC News that Surfside town officials told residents in a 2018 meeting "that the building was not in bad shape."

"The structural engineer has been around for a while," Alvarez said on NPR's "Weekend Edition." "We took out $15 million to fix that building at his say so. No one ever, ever, ever told us that that building was in such bad shape. No one. No one."

Meeting minutes released by Surfside Monday night confirmed Alvarez's account. The minutes said Surfside building official Rosendo Prieto told those present at the meeting that he had received and reviewed the structural engineer report "and it appears the building is in very good shape."

"The permit process, balcony railings, concrete restoration, and waterproofing was discussed," the meeting minutes said.

The day after the meeting, Prieto wrote in an email to then-town manager Guillermo Olmedillo that "it went very well."

But an engineer had warned a month earlier that there was evidence of “major structural damage” below the building's pool deck.

The consultant, Frank Morabito, had been hired to get a start on a 40-year recertification process, as is required under Miami-Dade County building code.

Champlain Towers South was built in 1981, and was undergoing a roof replacement to be in compliance with the report when half the building flattened.

More than a dozen buildings in unincorporated Miami Dade are up for recertification and will be closely monitored for potential safety issues, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Monday. Those buildings will be a part of an audit by the county, which will also include recently recertified buildings.

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