'Miracle Boy' in Florida Condo Collapse Tells His Story

Jonah Handler was integral to the negotiation of a $1.02B settlement
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 4, 2022 1:00 AM CDT
'Miracle Boy' in Florida Condo Collapse Tells His Story
Artificial flowers are shown on a fence on June 21, 2022, surrounding the site where the Champlain Towers South collapsed killing 98 people last year in Surfside, Fla.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

After they heard the boom at 1:15am on June 24, 2021, Jonah Handler and his mother, Stacie Dawn Fang, went out on their balcony to see if they could figure out where the noise had come from. They returned inside and sat on Jonah's bed in the ensuing silence, with Fang reassuring her 15-year-old son there was nothing to worry about. Then, at 1:22am, the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed, in a tragedy that would claim 98 lives. Jonah, now 16, was one of just a few people to survive from the upper floors of the building; after he was rescued from the rubble, he was often called "Miracle Boy" in the media. Now, a year after the collapse, the teen is speaking publicly for the first time in a long-ranging Rolling Stone piece.

The article traces how those seven minutes Jonah and his mother (who did not survive) spent together became integral to the negotiation of a $1.02 billion settlement approved by a judge on June 23. For months, it seemed there would be very little money for the victims' families. Then lawyer Judd Rosen, who represented Jonah and his father, found a gap in the training of the security guard on duty. She didn't know there was a button that activated a loudspeaker through which she could have made an announcement to evacuate that would have been piped into every bedroom of the building's 136 units. (She did take action though, calling as many residents' numbers as she could.) She was employed by Securitas, the world's second-largest security company—which, thought it denies any wrongdoing, is paying $517.5 million of the settlement. Jonah "proved that those seven minutes really would have saved lives," says Rosen. (Read the full piece, which also delves into Jonah's recovery and lingering trauma, here.)

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