Two Montreal friends identified as dead and missing after Miami condo collapse
Anastasia Gromova and Michelle Pazos thought a little Miami vacation would be the perfect chance to spend time together before Gromova left Montreal for an exciting opportunity abroad.
Now Pazos and her father have been declared dead, and Gromova's family is desperately searching for answers after the condo building where the three were staying collapsed last month, killing at least 97 people.
Gromova's father, Sergiy Gromov, said his 24-year-old daughter and Pazos were close friends who lived in Montreal. They had decided to spend some time at the Surfside, Fla., condo belonging to Pazos's father before Gromova left for a job teaching English in Japan.
"It was the last opportunity to be together, to spend some time together, to enjoy it," he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Miami-Dade police have confirmed they pulled Pazos's body from the rubble of the collapsed Champlain Towers South building on July 9, and they have said the body of 55-year-old Miguel Pazos was found a day earlier. Local authorities say at least 97 people died from the June 24 collapse, and as of Monday, 95 of those victims had been identified.
Gromova's family flew to Florida from Toronto after the collapse, and they are among the last families waiting for answers. Gromov said the wait is excruciating. "They ask questions, but they don't give any answers and the answers are not straight answers, so we feel now that it's been a lot of time and we don't have any answers yet and it's just the waiting is becoming unbearable," he said.
Gromov describes his daughter Anastasia as a "smart and strong" young woman who worked at an advertising agency in Montreal but was looking forward to other adventures. When she visited Toronto she rarely sat still and was always planning activities for the family, he said.
"She knew what she wanted in life," Gromov said. "She always had a plan -- and not just a Plan A but a Plan B, C, D and so on."
He said the family has booked flights home to Canada in about a week but they are having a hard time imagining leaving without their daughter. A part of him hopes for a "miracle" -- that somehow she hadn't been inside at all -- but he's also realistic, and at the very least, wants her identity confirmed.
Accenture, a multinational consulting company with a Montreal office, confirmed in a statement that Pazos had been an employee. "We grieve deeply for the loss of Michelle and her father and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy," the company said in an email. A LinkedIn profile associated with the name Michelle Pazos indicates she studied marketing management at McGill University before going on to work in Accenture's Montreal's office.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed the remains of three Canadians have been found at the building collapse site, and that one person remains unaccounted for. It did not name the deceased but said it was providing consular assistance to the families.
Miami-Dade officials previously identified the first Canadian whose remains were found as 66-year-old Ingrid "Itty" Ainsworth, formerly of Montreal. She and her Australian husband, Tzvi, had briefly lived in Canada before moving to Australia and, eventually, Florida. The couple had seven children and were celebrating the birth of two grandchildren, their niece Chana Harrel has said.
With files from The Associated Press.
-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021.