surfside condo

UConn Baseball Player and His Family Narrowly Escape Collapsing Surfside, FL Condo

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A University of Connecticut baseball player and his family narrowly escaped the collapsing condo in Surfside, Florida, last week.

UConn baseball pitcher Justin Willis was on vacation with his family, staying in unit 1106 of the 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo, right by the wing that suddenly collapsed early Thursday.

Willis' dad, Albert Aguero, said he woke up around 1:15 a.m. and felt the building shaking and the walls moving.

Aguero said he originally thought the building had been struck by lightning, but knew it was serious when he saw fire trucks arrive and was told by firefighters to evacuate.

Willis, who is a junior at UConn, said it "felt like a plane was taking off from the top of our building."

Aguero and his family took a few items and made their way out of the building, but were stunned by the destruction.

"The minute we opened the door, that's when we realized it was our building that collapsed," Aguero said.

"Panic starts to set in, like we need to really run, because I don't know if the rest of it is coming down. We got to the stairwell and when we opened the door, that's when everything really hit, because half the wall to the stairwell was missing, it was kind of open air stairs, so now we're just racing down as fast as possible," he added.

On their way down, the family helped several people including some who were stuck behind a fire door that was stuck and couldn't get to the stairwell to evacuate.

The unit they were staying in was just feet from the precipice, a chasm 11 stories down. For the family, nearly three years of good memories and fun vacation times became a night of hell.

"My initial reaction is wow, we were so lucky. We talked about it and we say it's about 15 feet that we survived by, if we had been 15 feet to the right, it would have gone down, or half of the apartment would have gone down," Aguero said. "We were just tremendously lucky."

The family lives in a mid-rise in North Bergen, New Jersey and said it will be difficult.

"Every time I hear a noise, or every time the ground shakes, I'm going to be on pins and needles. I don't know who I'm going to deal with it," Aguero's wife, Janette, said.

Authorities announced on Friday that an additional four victims were recovered, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter. President Joe Biden visited the collapse site on Thursday and met with families, promising federal support for search and rescue efforts.

At least nine people were killed and over 100 people remain unaccounted for as rescuers continue searching around-the-clock for possible survivors.

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