These two young Montreal friends died in a Florida condo collapse. But only 1 was found

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The trip to Florida was supposed to be a final vacation together for best friends Michelle Pazos, 23, and Anastasia Gromova, 24, before Gromova went to Japan to teach English.

The young women, who had met in their third year at McGill University in Montreal, where they both graduated with business degrees, were living in Pazos’ father’s condo in Surfside, Florida when she collapsed abruptly on June 24th.

As an engineer, Elena Pazos said that when she saw the pictures of the Champlain Towers South wreck, she knew her daughter likely did not survive.

“When I saw the pile that was left there, there was no structure … I pretty much knew it was pretty bad,” she said.

“That’s why I didn’t want to look anymore.”

The 12-story tower near Miami killed 97 people when it partially collapsed. Authorities say rescue and salvage work has required the removal of more than 12,000 tons of rubble and concrete while search parties continue to identify the dead.

Miami-Dade police have identified 95 victims so far, according to district officials.

Pazos’ estranged husband, Miguel Pazos, 55, and daughter Michelle Pazos were the second and third Canadian victims identified in the condominium collapse, according to Global Affairs Canada. Their bodies were recovered after three weeks.

Pazos says she will remember her daughter as a happy person.

“Michelle was the sunshine of my life,” said her mother. “She was everything to me.”

Michelle Anna Pazos, 23, died in a condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. (Submitted by Elena Pazos)

Pazos says the identification of her body was the only consolation, though she is devastated by the sudden loss of her daughter.

“I was happy,” said Pazos. “I know it’s awful [to say] … but when you go through this agony of searching for loved ones, in the end you hope to hear that they have been found.

“The bottom line is that you’ve lost loved ones and will never see them again.”

Looking for closure

Sergiy Gromov and Larysa Gromova flew from Toronto to Florida on June 27 after hearing from their daughter and friend.

“They spent a lot of time together … they think the same way,” said Larysa Gromova. “You’ve helped each other make informed decisions in life.”

The couple say they have come to terms with their daughter’s likely death, but their remains must be identified in order for them to come to an end.

“We hope that they will at least recover a little,” said Gromov. “Otherwise it’s unbearable.”

Anastasia Gromova’s remains have not been recovered. (Submitted by Larysa Gromova)

The last time Larysa Gromova heard from her daughter was a text message as she often sent updates about her travels.

“If you look at our WhatsApp messages, this is the last [Anastasia sent] was ‘I love you’. It’s so hard, “she said.

Almost a month has passed since the collapse, and Gromov says he understands that the rescuers will not find Anastasia “anytime soon”.

Given Florida’s humid climate, human remains are deteriorating rapidly, and he says detectives told him DNA testing would take time.

Gromov says his daughter’s life was pulsating before it was cut short.

“She was very smart. She was the strongest in our family and I understand it now,” he said. “She was very smart. She didn’t waste her time. She took every opportunity in her life to travel, get to know some places, meet friends, meet people.”

In a statement, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said Canada offers its deepest condolences and offers direct assistance to the families of the deceased.

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