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Officials identify ‘voice in the rubble’ in Surfside condo collapse

Officials identify voice in the rubble in Surfside condo collapse


The woman whose voice was heard in the rubble of the horrific condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, has been identified as a 36-year-old entertainment industry exec from Los Angeles, authorities said.

Theresa Velasquez was heard calling out after the initial collapse of the Champlain Towers on June 24, 2021, but rescuers were unable to reach her before she died, according to an 11-page Miami Dade Fire Rescue memo obtained by CBS Miami.

Her body was recovered on July 8.

Velasquez had just flown into Miami from LAX on the night of the collapse to visit her parents, Julio, 67, and Angela, 60, who also died.

Her brother, David, said that he accepts the findings of the investigation into the so-called “voice in the rubble.”

“There is no way to know 100% but it seems like the logical conclusion,” he told the news outlet.

The memo, written by Deputy Fire Chief Raied Jadallah, refutes a December 2021 report by The Palm Beach Post and USA Today that identified the victim as Valeria Barth, 14, who had been visiting Miami with her parents from Colombia to get COVID-19 shots.

Theresa Velasquez was a 36-year-old entertainment industry exec from Los Angeles.

Jadallah’s memo also rebuts allegations that Valeria burned to death after firefighters accidentally set fire to the room where she was trapped.

The erroneous identification of Valeria as the person heard in the debris was partly based on the fact that a rescuer heard the person say she had been in unit 204, the apartment where the girl and her folks were staying.

However, other rescuers said they heard the trapped person say she had been in unit 304, the unit where Velasquez’s parents lived.

Angela Maria Velasquez and Julio Velasquez out to dinner.
Velasquez had flown into Miami on the night of the collapse to visit her parents, Angela and Julio, who also died.

Also, Valeria’s uncle Sergio Barth told Jadallah that the girl had a “very distinct high-pitched voice that could not be mistaken,” the Miami Herald reported.

“According to rescuers, the voice was that of a grown woman whose English appeared to be that of an English speaker with native sentence syntax and excellent vocabulary,” the report says.

“All the rescuers unanimously stated … [the voice] did not have an accent,” adds the report, which notes that Sergio said his niece’s primary language was Spanish “but she can speak English” with an accent.

Rescuers work in the area Velasquez was found.
A rescuer says he heard the “voice in the rubble” say she had been in unit 204, which was where the Velasquez’s were staying.
Miami Dade Fire Rescue

During a press conference on July 1, 2021, Cominsky said rescuers heard “audible sounds” from a woman during their initial search underneath the crumbled remains of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo.

He made his comments after a local news outlet reported that rescuers heard banging on a wall and then a woman pleading to be rescued on the day of the collapse.

“Everybody that was there, that’s what we’re trying to do, get this lady out and comfort her. … She was asking for help and she was pleading to be taken out of there,” a first responder told WPLG at the time.

In this Friday, June 25, 2021, file photo, rescue personnel work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, in Surfside, Fla.
Velasquez’s brother, David, accepts the findings of the investigation into the so-called “voice in the rubble.”
AP/Gerald Herbert

“We were continuously talking to her. … ‘Honey, we got you. We’re going to get to you,’” said the rescuer, who asked to remain anonymous.

Velasquez, who worked for the music event company LiveNation in Los Angeles for six years, began her music career in 2004, deejaying in clubs around Miami under the name DJ Theresa, the Miami Herald reported.

She also traveled around the world, including gigs at Barcelona’s Circuit Festival and Madrid’s SuperMartxe – and also had worked for Sony Music and SFX Entertainment, according to the news outlet.

Rescue teams use jack hammers to chip through debris and rubble as they continue to look for survivors at the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South Condo building in Surfside, Fla.
Rescuers reportedly heard a woman banging on a wall and pleading to be rescued on the day of the collapse.
Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP

Velasquez graduated from Georgetown University and earned a master’s degree in music business from New York University, it added.

Her older brother, David, described her during a memorial service as the coolest person he had ever met.

“Effortlessly cool. A planet with her own gravity where people got caught in her orbit,” he said, according to the Herald.

“She could do everything well, an absolute force of nature.”



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