The family of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega confirmed Wednesday that his 92-year-old mother was among those killed in the condo collapse in Surfside.
North Bay Village posted a message on social media saying that with the death of Hilda Noriega, the family lost “the heart and soul” and “matriarch” of their family.
“The Noriega family was notified last evening of the recovery and positive identification of his mother from the Champlain Towers South catastrophic scene,” the message read in part. “The family has asked for privacy as they deal with this horrific and painful loss."
As of Wednesday morning, 16 people have been confirmed to have died in the collapse while another 147 are unaccounted for.
Hilda Noriega had lived in the beachside condominium for more than 20 years and had recently put her unit up for sale with plans to move in with family.
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Shortly after the collapse, the Noriega family rushed to the scene hoping Hilda would be okay. Her grandson, Michael, and his family stood on the side of the collapsed building.
"It was really like a scene out of a movie," Michael said to NBC 6 last Sunday. "I fell to my knees in realization that my grandmother was in the building that just collapsed."
In disbelief, the family peered through the area looking for signs of life. Carlos Noriega found a birthday card and more that belonged to his mother.
"This is actually my grandmother and my grandfather in their younger years and my father," Michael said while holding a picture.
The family saw the items, including a house blessing on paper that was found, as a sign of hope.
"Yes ,there is definitely a much deeper meaning and much more value on them (the cards and pictures) to our family today," Michael said Wednesday.