VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Task Force 2 is back home in Virginia Beach after spending nearly two weeks in Surfside, Florida, working to find victims and survivors in the rubble of a collapsed condominium.
The 80-member team deployed on July 1 to help with the search-and-rescue at the condo. It included specialized personnel, including physicians, K9 search and rescue teams as well as logistics teams. There were also three engineers sent down to help ahead of the full team.
According to the Associated Press, the death toll at the Miami-area Champlain Towers South condo rose to 94 on Monday, with 22 people still unaccounted for. The building collapsed overnight on June 24.
The Virginia Beach-based team returned to Hampton Roads Tuesday afternoon, families lined the sidewalks to welcome them home.
Officials with the task force said they recovered 25 bodies, and assisted with 11 more.
“It may be unfortunate that we couldn’t do anything to help save the people that were actually in the building,” said one of the team’s leaders, Capt. Jim Ingledue. “But for every one of those people, there were tens or hundreds of people that loved them. So our work then basically shifted from making a rescue of somebody in the building to doing a rescue for their family and their loved ones to have closure.”
The task force posted videos and a photo on its Facebook page showing tributes from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue as the team’s convoy left the area Monday morning.
Pam Blais, a former emergency department nurse and one of 10 On Your Side’s Remarkable Women, is also collecting items to donate to the task force. She hopes to collect Clif Bar products to help build the task force’s pantry.
Blais launched The Pantry Box to deliver boxes of snacks (and, at one point, masks and meals as well) to local emergency departments.
The items can be dropped off at 1232 Auburn Hill Drive in Chesapeake. When there’s enough to fill a storage unit, they’ll be delivered to Virginia Task Force 2.
Stay with WAVY.com for updates.