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‘I won’t leave until I find my baby sister,’ La. family keeps watch over South Florida search and rescue efforts

South Florida condo collapse
South Florida condo collapse
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 10:12 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 26, 2021 at 11:25 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -“I won’t leave until I find my baby sister rain or shine,” said Ashley Dean.

Ashley Dean says Miami was her sister’s happy place. She says her sister, Cassie Stratton was inside the Surfside, Florida condo when it partially collapsed.

As Stratton is still unaccounted for, watching crews comb through piles of rubble has turned into a nightmare.

“It’s been extremely agonizing, it’s been painful, it’s very confusing, it’s almost unbelievable,” said Dean.

Shortly after the collapse, Stratton’s family tried desperately to get to Miami. It was local business mogul, Scott Ballard of Ballard Brands who picked up the phone.

“It’s the worst thing in the world that a parent could ever imagine,” said Ballard.

Ballard said he didn’t have to personally know Stratton’s mother, Kerry Billedeau to help a mother reunite with a daughter in trouble.

“They were saying that her phone went out while she was on the phone with her husband… you just can’t think twice 120 people, 140 people that’s a huge number and a small number that one of them is from our town, I mean it’s horrible,” said Ballard.

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Within hours he says he helped line up a flight for them and by late Thursday night, they were on the ground in Florida.

“We had them pick them up to take them to the hotel make sure they were ok, so we were in contact… our prayers and thoughts are with you and if we can do anything else we will our community well one not me our community and I think the community has shown that,” said Ballard.

The community kept helping. With such chaos on the ground, Congressman Steve Scalise connected Stratton’s family with local law enforcement, recovery efforts, and local legislators on the ground.

“We’re doing everything we can to help the family and such a difficult time… I’m just in shock and angst because you know there’s going to be a high loss of life, and those questions how can a building just collapse and there will be time to answer those questions, but the most immediate thing is helping with the search and rescue operations,” said Scalise.

Stratton is just one of more than 150 still unaccounted for in the collapse. Back in south Louisiana, a whole community prays for her family and her safe return.

“I miss my baby sister and just pray to God she’s holding on because if anyone can make it through my sister can make it through,” said Dean.

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