Surfside collapse: Tsahal’s Oz Gino ponders search and rescue mission


For the lieutenant colonel. Oz Gino, who has worked with U.S. first responders for the past two weeks on the Surfside building collapse search and rescue mission was touching and tiring, but an extreme honor.

Gino was one of 18 IDF Home Front Command personnel who were dispatched to South Florida after the building collapsed on June 24, in an attempt to try to save the victims under the pile of destruction.

“The situation is of course horrible and it was very difficult for us to deal with, but it was incredible to work with the American search and rescue teams,” Gino said on Tuesday, a day after returning to Israel.

The American and Israeli delegations worked 12 hours a day in the rubble pile, searching for bodies and personal items. They were able to collaborate on the use of advanced technology in their search which aided in their rescue efforts.

“During the first few days we had to try to figure out what was the best way to work together, but after two days we worked really well together,” said Gino.

Gino felt “more than welcomed” by American first responders. Some of the American firefighters even greeted Israeli officers in the last days of their mission.

“We’re like family there,” Gino said of US first responders, “I have all of their cell phone numbers and we shared a lot of emotional moments there.”

Gino recalled a heartbreaking moment when the Israeli team discovered the body of a seven-year-old firefighter’s daughter in the pile. The young girl, Stella Cattarossi, was found alongside her mother, Graciela, in the rubble.

“When we saved her, it was a very emotional moment for everyone there,” said Gino.

For Gino, it was essential to separate these emotional experiences from the work he was doing, especially since he and his comrades were staying in the same hotel as the families of the victims and interacting daily throughout. the mission.

“Our CO informed the families every time we came back from the job on the job,” Gino said, “and they asked questions like,“ Did you work on floor 8? or “have you heard of my father?” and it was a very difficult situation.

Gino said he and the rest of their delegation would do their best to remain professional and precise in their work, despite these emotionally trying interactions.

“You have to know that the mission is to save people,” said Gino, “and if you are mixed up with your feelings it can be very difficult to do your job 12 hours a day.”

Gino and his fellow officers worked until the last moments of their mission to rescue people. They returned to the pile to rummage just hours after their flight back to Israel.

“We were fortunate to be able to locate people in these last moments in the area between the building and the collapsed building,” Gino said.

Gino praised the work of the US first responders and the way they handled the whole situation.

“I think the American first responders, the fire department and the task force over there did a great job in a very short period of time,” Gino noted.

Gino, who was also a member of the IDF search and rescue team during the snowstorm in Nepal in 2014, considers it the duty of the IDF Home Front Command to help in any tragedy, like that of Surfside and around the world.

“It is our duty to be there,” said Gino, “and it was a great honor for me and for our delegation to help our [Israel’s] great ally, the United States of America.

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