First Identified Victim of Surfside Building Collapse Is 'Beloved' Mom of Rescued Teen
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner has identified its first victim of the partial collapse of a 12-story residential building in Florida on Thursday morning.
Stacie Fang was killed after a wing of Champlain Towers South — a 136-unit apartment complex located in Surfside — collapsed around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, the office told PEOPLE on Friday.
The 54-year-old mother had been pulled from the debris and taken to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, but later died, the Miami Herald reported.
Fang is the parent of Jonah Handler, a 15-year-old teen whose rescue just hours after the building's collapse was caught on video (seen above).
Relatives of both the Fang and Handler families sent a statement to WTVJ that thanked supporters for their well-wishes.
"There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie," the statement read. "The members of the Fang and Handler family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy, compassion and support we have received."
"The many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much-needed source of strength during this devastating time," it continued. "On behalf of Stacie's son, Jonah, we ask you now to please respect our privacy to grieve and to try to help each other heal."
According to WTVJ, Handler is a student at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens and is a member of the school's junior varsity baseball team.
The 10th grader was retrieved from the tangled debris of the building on Thursday after rescuers heard his cries for help.
"I could hear somebody yelling in the debris," witness Nicholas Balboa told WFOR of the rescue. "What he was actually saying was, 'Can you see my hand, can you see my hand?' And I could see a little hand sticking up waving, moving his fingers trying to get our attention."
"We were there, we were letting him know we were there. He said, 'Please don't leave me, please don't leave me.' We wouldn't leave him," Balboa added. "He looked fairly alright, like very lucky. He had a guardian angel for sure."
On Friday morning, officials confirmed the death toll from the disaster had risen from one to four, and the number of people unaccounted for remains at 159.
Authorities have not yet determined why the section of the building fell.
"We have a lot of heroes in our midst here over the last day and a half," Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said of first responders during a press conference on Friday. "It's a unique type of tragedy to have, in the middle of the night, half of a building just collapse like that."
"It's tough, it's been gut-wrenching for an awful lot of people," he said. "But I'll tell ya, nobody is quitting here, and we are going to stand by those families and we are going to stand by everyone that's been displaced, you can guarantee that."
With Reporting from Rachel DeSantis