2 men with Chicago ties missing after Miami area condo collapse
“How does something like this happen? You can expect this in a third-world country, but this is Miami Beach,” a friend of one of the men told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday.
Two men with ties to Chicago are among the nearly 160 people still missing after a 12-story condo building abruptly collapsed Thursday outside Miami, Florida.
Juan Mora, a graduate of Loyola University Chicago who works for Morton Salt, had been staying with his parents at the condominium tower in Surfside, an oceanfront community just north of Miami Beach. Mora and his parents haven’t been located following the building’s partial collapse, a longtime friend told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Ilan Naibryf, who had just completed his junior year at the University of Chicago, also has been reported missing, according to social media posts and media reports.
Oscar Cepero, 31, said his search for Mora and his parents has been “unreal.” Cepero said he and Mora attended Catholic school together since they were young and remained close into adulthood, even after Mora relocated to Chicago and began working for Morton.
Morton Salt said in a statement that Mora served as manager of East Coast Distribution for its road salt business.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn that Juan is reported to be one of the more than 150 people missing,” the company said.
The company said it plans to make a $25,000 donation to a local agency to assist with relief efforts and support services.
After learning Mora’s parents’ building had crumbled and realizing his texts to Mora weren’t going through, Cepero said he rushed to a reunification center but was unable to locate his friend or his parents. While there, he said officials failed to provide much information about the search, leaving him and others “antsy” and uncertain.
“What else could you do?” he said. “If it was up to me, I’d just jump in the pile and try to pull him out myself. But that’s not the case.”
Cepero said Mora came back to Florida while he was working remotely to stay with his parents, Cuban immigrants who relocated to the area. The two buddies last saw each other last Saturday, when they went fishing.
“He was a grade-A kind of guy,” Cepero said. “He was the kind of person that when he made a commitment, he always stuck by it. [He] was honest, respectable. Kind of more old school than anything.”
Though Mora had been staying with his parents, Cepero said his friend had truly settled into his home in the Midwest. From graduating Loyola to becoming a Cubs fan and favoring the deep dish from Lou Malnati’s, Cepero said, “Chicago is everything for him.”
As crews continue to sift through the rubble following the collapse, Naibryf’s loved ones have also continued searching for him and his girlfriend, according to social media posts. Efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.
Rabbi Yossi Brackman, of Rohr Chabad at the University of Chicago, told the Sun-Times Friday evening that Naibryf still hasn’t been located.
Brackman told WGN on Thursday that Naibryf has been “heavily involved in the Jewish community — especially at the Chabad House.”
“A leader and an innovator, always has a smile, always upbeat person and really stepped up as the president of our student board this past year,” Brackman told the news station.
Meanwhile, Cepero said he was on his way back to the reunification center late Thursday as he frantically sought to make some sense of the tragedy. USA Today reported the building was found to be unstable last year and had been sinking “at an alarming rate” since the 1990s.
“How does something like this happen?” Cepero said. “You can expect this in a third-world country, but this is Miami Beach.”