(WSVN) – In chilling new video, we are now hearing the moments the Champlain Towers South began to fall. and we’re hearing from a woman who survived the collapse. 7’s Karen Hensel has her story.
It was 1:22 a.m. Ring video from a hallway inside Champlain Towers South captured the thunderous roar as the building began to collapse.
Raysa Rodriguez, survivor: “That’s what woke me up and threw me out of bed.”
Raysa Rodriguez was asleep in unit 907.
Raysa Rodriguez: “And that’s when I said to myself, ‘What the hell is going on? We don’t have earthquakes in Miami.’”
She ran to her balcony door.
Raysa Rodriguez: “Once I opened the sliders, this white cloud just went ‘fwoop!’”
She tried calling her longtime friends Elaine Sabino and Dick Augustine, who lived in unit 1210.
No one answered. A call to her brother went to voicemail.
Raysa Rodriguez (recording): “Anybody over there? Hello? Who’s there? Oh, [expletive]! Oh, [expletive]!”
The recording captured 15 minutes of horror.
Raysa Rodriguez (recording): “Let me check the stairs. [Alarm goes off] Oh, my God! What the hell!”
Now, one year later, wearing the same clothes as that night, Raysa sat down with us to explain her terrifying escape.
Raysa Rodriguez: “So once I open the door to the stairwell, my brain couldn’t compute what I was seeing.”
Raysa Rodriguez (recording): “Oh, my God! Yadi! The whole entire building is gone.”
Raysa Rodriguez: “It’s like, ‘What’s going on? Where’s the building? The building is gone.’ I heard from the pile some lady scream up to me, ‘Please help me. Please don’t leave me like this.’ It was pitch dark. I just couldn’t see her at all. All I kept hearing were people crying and moaning.”
Raysa kept banging on doors, first helping her neighbor Yadi and Yadi’s 8-year-old son.
Raysa Rodriguez (recording): “Let’s leave. Hold on, let me check the stairwell. Ada, from downstairs.”
Raysa Rodriguez: “Ada is waiting for us on the eighth floor. I said, ‘Whoever we need to help, we help on the way out.’”
They together rescued 88-year-old Ada and made it down seven flights to the garage.
Raysa Rodriguez: “I heard water running, so I’m thinking, ‘Water, electricity. We’re not going to make it through there.’”
Firefighters rescued all of them from a second-floor balcony.
Raysa Rodriguez: “A lot of people don’t understand what we went through that night.”
This is now sacred ground, where 98 people died. Once dubbed “The Mayor of Champlain Towers South,” Raysa Rodriguez holds on to the memories here of her neighbors and friends.
Raysa Rodriguez: “It just breaks my heart that all these people are just gone.”
Even though Raysa lost her unit, she still has to pay the monthly mortgage, forcing the 60-year-old to move back in with her parents.
Returning to the collapse site is hard.
Raysa Rodriguez: “I get physically sick. I could just see certain people just sitting where everybody would sit, and then I looked, and just – everything’s gone.”
Her friends she tried to call that night did not survive.
Raysa Rodriguez: “Richard Augustine and Elaine, they were my friends for 18 years. Sometimes I look at the sky, and I talk to Dick, and I talk to Elaine, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t help.”
Raysa Rodriguez called Champlain Towers South home for 18 years. She told Karen that she thinks about that nights and her friends every day since the collapse.
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