Missing couple’s nephew: “Very slow response” after condo collapse

Credit: CBSNews
Credit: CBSNews

▶ Watch Video: People from Latin American community still missing in Florida condo collapse

Claudio and Maria Bonnefoy are among the dozens unaccounted for after the collapse of a Florida residential tower Thursday.

Maria, who was from the Philippines, and her Chilean husband, Claudio, lived on the 10th floor of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside for more than a decade.

After four days of painstaking efforts, rescue workers have found nine bodies. More than 150 people are still unaccounted for.

Maria’s nephew, William Sanchez, told correspondent Maria Elena Salinas he’s still holding out hope that his family members will be found alive.

“She was always the doting aunt that watched over my wife and her sisters,” he said. “She was just a beautiful person.”

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Claudio and Maria Bonnefoy are among the missing in the collapse of a Surfside, Fla., condominium tower. 

Family Photo

Sanchez said his wife’s Aunt Maria – referred to by her loved ones as Tita-coy – was like a second mother to the couple.

He was stunned last week when he learned through a text message that the couple’s complex had suddenly collapsed. 

“I looked up at the building and I thought I’d see her apartment, but then I realized that whole side of the building had fallen down,” he said. “I called my wife up and we both started crying.”

Sanchez said Claudio (a lawyer and uncle to the former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet) and Maria (once a budget officer for the International Monetary Fund) dedicated their lives to serving others. 

“They were such capable people who were very informed,” Sanchez said. “They really checked the buildings where they were going to live in. If they would have known the building had issues and it was sinking since the ’90s, they would have never bought an apartment.”

Rescue teams have spent days searching the site, but Sanchez wishes more had been done initially: “We went through Hurricane Andrew down here, I know what a tragedy is, but there was a very slow response.”

Salinas asked, “One of Claudio Bonnefoy’s daughters is quoted in a newspaper saying, if it wasn’t for COVID, right now they would be traveling the world, they would be somewhere seeing the world?”

“Absolutely,” Sanchez replied. “They were simple people. They’d send us pictures roaming around Turkey and different parts of Latin America, Africa, Asia. So, that’s exactly what would’ve happened; they would’ve been somewhere else.”


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