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West New York Family Describes Escaping Harrowing Building Collapse In Florida: 'It Was Just A Race Against Time'

WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A family from New Jersey survived a deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida, on Thursday.

Albert and Janette Aguero from West New York were staying in a condo on the 11th floor with their two kids.

Albert and Janette Aguero and their two children from West New York, New Jersey, survived a deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida, on June 24, 2021. (Credit: Aguero family)

Their unit was not affected, but they say the building shook like an earthquake.

Authorities yelled for them to evacuate before more units came crashing down.

"Once we got in the stairwell, I thought the entire thing was going to come down, so it was just a race against time. Can we make it out before the whole thing fell?" Albert Aguero told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

Battling smoke, fire and the frantic race against time, rescuers used heavy equipment and their own hands to sift through twisted steel and crumbled concrete in the painstaking search for survivors Friday.

"We are listening for sounds. It's not specifically human sounds. It could be tapping. It could be steel kind of twisting. It could be some of the debris kind raining down," said Miami Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Ray Jadallah.

The first victim to be identified is 54-year-old Stacie Fang. Her son was pulled from the rubble alive Thursday.

Firefighters are following signs of life, attempting to reach victims by creating a tunnel from a flooded underground parking garage.

"All of our training tell us that for at least the first 72 hours, there are high likelihood of people that could be alive in there," said Danny Cardeso, with Miami Dade Fire Rescue.

But it's not happening fast enough for the frantic families of those trapped, like the Rosenbergs, who want to know why crews aren't digging more from the top of the pile.

"We have begged the authorities, if you're not willing to go in, let us go in. Please send someone in," Yehuda Rosenberg said.

Yehuda's sister, Mallky Weiss, and her husband, Benny, from Lakewood, were in Surfside visiting their dad, Harold. A picture shows what they believe is a chair from their father's second floor condo near a pool not covered in rubble.

That same area became a safe haven for the Agueros as they escaped the wreckage.

"I think how lucky we are to be alive, right?" Albert Aguero said.

They woke to the building shaking and screams to evacuate.

"I looked to the left, and our neighbors' apartment completely sheared off," Albert Aguero said.

They made it out, even rescuing an elderly woman along the way.

"I can't believe that we were given another day to be here," Janette Aguero said.

"I don't know how some people were saved and other people didn't make it," Albert Aguero said.

Right now, the Agueros are staying in a hotel through accommodations made by the American Red Cross. They're scheduled to fly home to New Jersey on Monday, but that could be tricky because some of their belongings, including IDs, were left behind in that crumbled condo.

CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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