The Colorado political strategist whose wife, Cassondra Stratton, has been missing for two weeks in a collapsed Miami-area condo tower said Thursday that her friends and family have accepted “the loss of a bright and kind soul with an adventurous spirit.”
Officials announced late Wednesday that they had given up hope of finding survivors in the rubble as crews turned to recovery efforts, bringing the confirmed death toll Thursday morning to 60, with an additional 80 people still unaccounted for.
“This wasn’t the miracle we prayed for, but it was not for lack of trying by rescue crews whose tireless bravery will never be forgotten,” said Mike Stratton, a veteran Democratic campaign consultant, in a statement.
Family members and rescue workers held a solemn vigil late Wednesday near the site of the beachfront 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building, which fell about 1:30 a.m. June 24 in Surfside, north of Miami Beach.
“At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search-and-rescue mission,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday at a news conference.
“We have all asked God for a miracle, so the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one,” she said.
Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told families at a private briefing that crews would stop using rescue dogs and listening devices but would continue to search for their loved ones.
“Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” he said.
No one has been pulled alive from the unstable pile of concrete since hours after it collapsed in what authorities say is the third-largest building collapse in U.S. history, after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York in 2001.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden met with families and first responders in Surfside a week ago. “They’re going through hell,” Biden said after an emotional meeting with about 200 people.
Stratton, who had left Florida earlier that week on a business trip, said he got a call from his wife moments before authorities say the building collapsed. She told him the building was shaking and that the swimming pool outside the window had disappeared into a sinkhole, and then the line went dead, he told KDVR-TV.
Members of his wife’s family from Louisiana, including her mother, sister and daughter, joined Stratton in Surfside as the search continued for the missing, The Times-Picayune reported.
“Cassie meant so much to so many, and everything to me,” Stratton said in a statement. “Hearts around the world are breaking as friends and family accept the loss of a bright and kind soul with an adventurous spirit. That spirit now lives in all our hearts as we will forever remember the love she gave and keep her memory alive in stories that make us laugh and smile. Her talent and determination allowed her to accomplish so much in her short life and leave a mark that will last the rest of ours. Cassie fiercely and fearlessly loved her daughter, her family, her friends and, of course, our cats, Cyrus and Oliver.
“This wasn’t the miracle we prayed for, but it was not for lack of trying by rescue crews whose tireless bravery will never be forgotten. On behalf of my sons, Matt and Sam, and Cassie’s daughter, Ariana, we want to thank everyone who reached out over the past two weeks to offer support, share a story and pray for Cassie. Your love means so much. Cass, we love you and are still hoping against hope. We will take care of Ariana the way you took care of all of us.”
The 40-year-old Cassondra Stratton, who was known as “Cassie,” has worked as an actress, model and Pilates instructor, her husband said. He said that the couple had been spending time during the COVID-19 pandemic at their condo, which they have owned for four years.
A senior policy adviser at Denver-based law and lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and a Durango native, Mike Stratton has worked on 10 presidential campaigns since the 1970s and has played a prominent role as an adviser and strategist in the election of many of Colorado’s leading Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.
— The Associated Press contributed to this article.