SURFSIDE, FL – Andreas Giannitsopoulos, a 21-year-old Greek-American student, is among the confirmed dead in the wreckage of the 12-storey apartment building in Miami which collapsed on June 24, NBC News reported on June 30 when the authorities made the confirmation.
Andreas Giannitsopoulos was reportedly on the 8th floor of the apartment building during the collapse, visiting his godfather, NBC News reported. Even more tragic is the fact that he was not a permanent resident of the apartment building or Florida in general, but a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as he had gone there to visit a friend and spend some carefree days in the Sunshine State.
Kostas Giannitsopoulos, 55, of Sugar Land, TX, knew his son Andreas, a student and athlete at Vanderbilt University, was in the Miami condominium high rise that collapsed, among the nearly 150 initially reported missing. Following the collapse, he told The Wall Street Journal that he was anxious "for his two best friends, including his son,” holding out that his son and his godfather with whom he was staying had survived.
“My son was the strongest person I know and the best part of my day. We had such plans for his future,” said his mother, Tina Giannitsopoulos, in tears on Wednesday after authorities confirmed they had found her son, NBC News reported.
“She, other family members and friends were staying at a rental complex outside Miami while they waited to hear whether he had been found. Giannitsopoulos was majoring in economics, had three minors and completed a finance accounting internship with Giorgetti in 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile,” NBC News reported.
“He was on the track team at Vanderbilt, said his friends who traveled to Florida after learning he might be trapped in the fallen 12-story building,” NBC News reported.
“He was a great competitor, always laughing and smiling and he was a great team leader,” Joseph Malouf, Giannitsopoulos’ former track coach at St. Thomas High School in Houston, told NBC News.
The young man's grandfather, also named Andreas Giannitsopoulos, a member of the Greek community in the Texas area and the Church of the Annunciation, spoke to the Greek channel ANT-1 noting that he learned afterwards that his grandson was among the missing, adding that he planned to visit Greece for the first time, together with his sister, next summer.
"My son, Kostas, hid it from me until today because I was going to have an operation on Monday. Today, however, he told me the truth. My grandson went to Miami for a vacation…. He is an excellent student with a scholarship and an incredible athlete, a perfect character,” he said before his grandson was found.
Relatives of the young Andreas Giannitsopoulos had expressed their anxiety on social media, posting on Facebook for everyone to pray that the 21-year-old was found safe and returned home. They also “got through the tense days before his death was confirmed by trading stories and jokes about him, friends said,” NBC News reported, adding that “earlier this week, they all went to a spot near the collapsed building site and ‘screamed out his name.’”
“I have a pretty loud voice, if he was in there, he heard me,” Malouf told NBC News.
It was then, however, that family and friends were informed that authorities had found Giannitsopoulos, NBC News reported, noting that before his mother “went to meet with detectives, she belted out a loud cry,” and “it took a few minutes for her to regain her composure,” NBC News reported.
“I’m so proud of you Andreas, thanks for being the best boy in the world, I know everybody says that, but he was truly gold,” the grieving mother said, NBC News reported.
Τhe family roots are from Xanthi in northern Greece.
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Twitter following the collapse: “We express sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives following the collapse of the building in #Florida. Our thoughts are with the injured and all affected & with the rescue crews. Our full solidarity & support to the American people & #US govt.”
As more human remains emerged Wednesday from the rubble of the collapsed Florida condo tower, the dead this time included the first children, ages 4 and 10, a loss that the Miami-Dade mayor called “too great to bear.”
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava made the announcement nearly a week after the Florida building came crashing down. After some preliminary remarks at a media briefing, she took a deep breath to gather herself and stared down at her notes. She spoke haltingly and said the disclosure came with “great sorrow, real pain.”
“So any loss of life, especially given the unexpected, unprecedented nature of this event, is a tragedy," she said. But the loss of children was an even heavier burden.
Miami-Dade police later identified the children as 10-year-old Lucia Guara and 4-year-old Emma Guara. The remains of their father, Marcus Guara, 52, were pulled from the rubble Saturday and identified Monday. The girls and their mother, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, were recovered Wednesday.
Search crews going through the ruins found the remains of a total of six people Wednesday, bringing the number of confirmed dead to 18. It was the highest one-day toll since the building collapsed last Thursday into a heap of broken concrete. The number of residents unaccounted for stands at 145.
Rescue crews and relatives of those still missing are scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden Thursday, in a visit many are hoping will provide some measure of comfort to a devastated community.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.