Firefighter sues after pulling daughter’s body from Surfside rubble

Lisa J. Huriash
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (TNS)
Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue firefighters are seen by piles of rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Florida. The building collapsed on June 24, 2021. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/TNS)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Miami firefighter who frantically worked to free to his 7-year-old daughter from the rubble in Surfside has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The suit, filed Tuesday by firefighter Enrique Arango, seeks unspecified damages. It names multiple companies “involved in the ownership, maintenance, restoration, management, inspection and oversight of the building.”

In the decades leading up to the catastrophe, building officials knew about “deplorable conditions,” such as seawater pooling in the garage, the suit alleges.

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The girl, referred to by her initials, lived with her mother and grandparents in Unit 501 at Champlain Towers South. The collapse of the 12-story building on June 24 killed 98 people.

At 1:30 a.m. that morning, Arango was at the fire station when he heard about the collapse.

“He stood motionless waiting for the live feed to reveal the extent of the collapse, hoping the unit that housed his daughter was still standing. Tragically, it was not,” according to the lawsuit.

In less than an hour, Arango and his brother, also a firefighter, were at the scene. For seven days, Arango and his brother worked with fellow firefighters. “Racing against the clock, they worked vigorously in the hopes that their efforts would assist in finding his daughter before it was too late,” according to the suit.

The girl’s body was pulled from the rubble the evening of July 1.

Once the child’s body was recovered the girl’s father placed his jacket over her and put a small American flag on the gurney.