Screams led man to find boy trapped in collapsed rubble of Florida condo

U.S. & World

SURFSIDE, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — As rescue crews were still arriving at the scene of a Florida condo building minutes after it collapsed, one man heard a boy’s cries and alerted officials to pull him from the rubble.

Nicholas Balboa was out walking his family’s dog just after midnight when he felt the ground shake.

“I thought maybe a storm was rolling in, but about 30 seconds to a minute later, another large rumble,” Balboa said. “That’s when it kind of clicked to me that something wasn’t quite right.”

After dropping the dog off at home, Balboa said he followed others who were heading in the direction of the sound and eventually arrived at the partially-collapsed Champlain Towers South.

“When I got there, there weren’t any fire or police officers at the back of the building; there was maybe just a handful of onlookers,” he said.

Balboa and another individual then moved closer to look through the chunked concrete and twisted metal.

“It was eerily quiet, like, almost something like out of a horror movie,” he recalled. “It was just silent, even with all of the emergency vehicles not too far away.”

Then, they heard a boy scream.

“I was able to spot his hand popping up through the rubble, and he was asking, ‘Can somebody see me?'” Balboa recalled. “He was just saying, ‘Please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me.’ I told him we’re not gonna go anywhere, we’ll be here.”

Even though Balboa stayed with him, he said the boy was still panicked.

“He had said his mother was in the apartment, but I couldn’t hear her or see her like I could see him. I don’t know what her status was,” he said.

Balboa said he used his phone’s flashlight to signal for help and a police office came over. More rescuers eventually arrived to extract the boy.

The boy is one of at least 102 people who’ve been found as of Friday morning; at least four people have been confirmed dead and more than 150 are still missing.

“He was probably in bed, he had his pajamas on. I can only imagine you’re sleeping and the floor gives way, and there you are, you’re falling,” Balboa said.

Balboa said he doesn’t remember exactly what he was thinking, but said something had to be done.

“We could see him. He was close enough, he was in reach, and just something had to be done. Especially hearing his voice, knowing that he was young. I knew that he couldn’t have been older than maybe just a pre-teen,” Balboa said.

“I would hope that if I were in a similar position somebody wouldn’t leave me, especially if I was alone,” he said.

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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