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Florida condo collapse: Phoenix man describes moments of horror, helping teen boy stuck under the rubble

Posted at 5:41 AM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-18 21:33:32-04

A Phoenix man who is credited with helping to rescue a teenager who was trapped underneath the rubble of the Florida condo collapse is speaking one-on-one with ABC15.

Nicholas Balboa was visiting his father who lives just a block away from the building that collapsed in Surfside. In the early morning hours of June 24, Balboa says he was walking his dog when he heard something strange.

"I heard something. And I felt it. And I thought, maybe it's a storm rolling in?" he explains. "Thirty seconds to a minute later, I heard another one. It was even louder and the ground really shook -- almost like an earthquake."

As he ran around the corner from his father's condo to see what happened, Balboa never could have imagined what he was about to find.

"When I got there - there was nothing. Literally nothing. The building was gone. I was just in shock."

It all happened so quickly.

RELATED: Number of confirmed deaths rises to 94 in Surfside condo collapse

Balboa says first responders weren't even on the scene yet and something told him to check out the back of the building.

"I could hear someone saying, 'can you see me? Can you see me? And I had my flashlight, and I could see his hand sticking up through the rubble."

Balboa spotted the hand of a young boy, buried underneath piles and piles of debris. He was only feet away, but Balboa and another man were unable to reach him, separated by towers of rubble.

"I said, 'we can see you. I'm going to get help.' And that's when he said, 'don't leave me. Don't leave me.'"

So Balboa stayed right there, shining his flashlight on the boy, flagging down firefighters who had just arrived moments earlier.

RELATED: Mother of boy rescued from Surfside condo collapse wreckage among dead

"Most people when they see a building collapse, they run away from the danger," ABC15's Nick Ciletti said to Balboa. "You ran towards the danger and put your life on the line to save that young boy. Were you scared at all for yourself?"

"No...we had to help him" Balboa said. "That's it."

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