Funeral services held in Brooklyn for last Florida collapse victim

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Funeral to be held in Brooklyn for last Florida collapse victim
Funeral services will be as early as today in Brooklyn for the final Florida collapse victim.

MIDWOOD, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Funeral services were held Tuesday in Brooklyn for the final Florida collapse victim.

Estelle Hedaya, 54, who moved to Florida in 2015 to begin a new chapter in her life, was identified as the 98th and final victim in the Surfside, Florida, collapse.

Hedaya was upbeat, vibrant, loved to travel and ran a jewelry business in Miami.

Her body was returned to Midwood, Brooklyn, where her family lives, as early as Tuesday for her funeral.

"She always mentioned God anytime she was struggling with anything," her younger brother, Ikey Heday said, adding he was drawing strength from God, just as he'd seen his sister do in troubling times.

Her brother said he remained hopeful throughout the search.

"After they pulled the tenth body out, everything was downhill," her father Abe Hedaya said. "There was not much to really-nothing to be optimistic about."

David Ozeri is the family's rabbi.

"She was good to everybody and good for the world," Ozeri said. "She was going to be sorely missed."

The Orthodox funeral in Bensonhurst drew some 200 mourners.

Regina Elo is Estelle's aunt.

"They didn't lose hope, but then, as time passed, it became obvious that Estelle was lost," Elo said. "And we had to deal with it. But it's been devastating to all of us. Estelle was our shining star. She was the joy of all of our lives. And we're going to miss her terribly."

After Hedaya's identification, investigators have no more missing person cases to pursue from the collapse.

The site of the June 24 collapse at the oceanside Champlain Towers South has been mostly swept flat, the rubble moved to a Miami warehouse. Although forensic scientists and rabbis are still at work, including examining the debris at the warehouse, seeking to recover any additional remains and personal items.

In the end, crews found no evidence that anyone who was found dead had survived the initial collapse, Fire Chief Alan Cominsky has said.

The dead included members of the area's large Orthodox Jewish community, the sister of Paraguay's first lady, her family and their nanny, along with an entire family of four that included a local salesman, his wife and their two young daughters, 4 and 11, who were buried in the same coffin.

Linda March, a 58 year-old attorney and fellow former New Yorker, was close friends with Hedaya. Oddly the two were the last three victims to be identified, along with 24-year-old Anastasia Gromova of Canada.

Leah Sutton, who knew Hedaya since birth and considered herself a second mother to her, said she and March were both "forces to be reckoned with."

"My two beautiful amazing fearless friends saved for last, have to believe there was a reason for them to be last," she said Monday. "Estelle's love of God was unbelievable and unwavering."

Search teams spent weeks battling the hazards of the rubble, including an unstable portion of the building that teetered above, a recurring fire and Florida's stifling summer heat and thunderstorms.

They went through more than 14,000 tons of broken concrete and rebar before finally declaring the mission complete.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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