MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL — With the arrival of the new year, here are some of Southeast Florida’s top headlines from 2021.
Surfside Condo Collapse Kills 98 People
The Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside made international headlines when it collapsed June 24, killing 98 people. It’s the third-largest building failure in U.S. history.
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For weeks, emergency responders and rescue workers searched the rubble for victims.
There’s still questions about the future of the site, which has been approved for sale. The victims and their families will receive a minimum $150 million in compensation, a judge ruled.
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The condo tower’s collapse also called into question the safety of aging residential buildings across South Florida.
After 6 Months, Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo Fired
After six months on the job, city commissioners voted unanimously to fire Miami police Chief Art Acevedo in October. The former Houston police chief was hired to replace former Miami Chief Jorge Colina, who retired.
During his brief time with the city, he was involved in multiple controversies, including cursing at a person in public, implying during an interview that Miami police would be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine and joking that the city was being run by “Cuban Mafia.”
City Manager Art Noriega also said that he had asked Acevedo to create a comprehensive policing plan for the city, which the chief failed to do
2 A.M. Booze Ban Supported by Miami Beach Voters
Miami Beach voters showed support for an earlier last call for alcohol throughout the city, according to the unofficial results of a straw poll on the 2021 ballot in November.
The non-binding referendum calls for bumping up the cutoff time for alcohol sales from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, effectively closing local bars and clubs hours earlier.
A majority of voters — 7,301 residents — voted in favor of the time change, while 5,616 voted against it, according to the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections office.
Wrong Number Leads To 20-Year Friendship, Callers Finally Meet
Misdialed phone calls 20 years ago blossomed into an unlikely friendship between a South Florida woman, now a great-grandmother, and a Rhode Island man who was then in his mid-20s and now has a family of his own.
They spoke regularly for two decades thanks to those wrong-number calls, but they never had the opportunity to meet in person — until last week, when Mike Moffitt, 46, surprised Gladys Hankerson, 80, at her Delray Beach home the day before Thanksgiving.
Their calls started in 2001, when one of Hankerson’s sons died from cancer. She was trying to reach her sister in Maryland to share the sad news when she accidentally called Moffitt, who lives in South Kingstown, about a half-hour south of Providence.
Baby With COVID-19 Antibodies Born to Vaccinated South FL Mother
In March, a pregnant health care worker from Boca Raton who received the COVID-19 vaccine passed the virus’ antibodies on to her newborn.
Two Palm Beach County pediatricians, Dr. Paul Gilbert and Dr. Chad Rudnick, believe the baby girl is the first child born with the antibodies after a mother’s vaccination.
The mother received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine when she was 36 weeks pregnant. Three weeks later, her daughter was born
Missing Woman Rescued from a Storm Drain Twice in 2021
A Delray Beach woman was found naked and stuck in a storm drain in March after being reported missing nearly three weeks ago. She told authorities she became lost walking in the sewer system.
An individual passing by the storm drain, which is located near the intersection of West Atlantic Avenue and SW 11th Avenue, called 911 when they heard the woman yelling, Delray Beach Fire Rescue shared on Facebook.
At the end of May, she was rescued from a storm drain a second time, this time in Texas, where she was staying at a rehab facility.
While looking for her, police saw her near a creek not far from her rehab facility, and she went down a storm drain as they approached her.
South FL Leaders Pan Governor’s Ban on Local COVID Restrictions
After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order suspending local emergency orders and restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic in early May, leaders in South Florida — which has been hit hardest by the virus — slammed the measure, which was effective immediately.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava condemned the order in a statement, saying, “I’m deeply concerned by this decision. We are still in a public health emergency and our economy has not fully rebounded from crisis.
Miami Mayor Suarez Wins Re-Election Easily
Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez easily defeated his opponents to win re-election Nov. 2.
Suarez had nearly 79 percent of the vote, beating out his four challengers, according to the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Office.
“You are my bosses, and guess what? The magic is back,” Suarez said during a speech to supporters Election Night. “Today we embark on a new chapter, a journey together to finish what we started to create the most…successful city in our country, to create the model that can be scaled into an agenda for America, bringing prosperity and peace not only to Miami, but to this entire nation.”
Miami Baseball Player 3rd American to Win Summer, Winter Olympic Medals
Though the United States lost 2-0 to Japan in the Tokyo Summer Olympics’ gold medal men’s baseball game in August, Miami baseball player Eddy Alvarez made history by medaling at both the summer and winter Olympics.
After taking home the silver medal Saturday, he’s now only the third American athlete to accomplish this feat of winning medals in both the winter and summer games.
Alvarez was also an Olympic speed skater who won a silver medal in the 5,000-meter relay during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Al Capone’s South FL Home Flipped, Sold for $15.5M
The late gangster Al Capone’s former Miami Beach mansion was saved from demolition in October when its new ownersflipped the home for a $5 million profit.
The Chicago gangster bought the 7,500-square-foot Palm Island home in 1928 for $40,000. He died in the house in 1947 from a heart attack.
At the end of August, developer Todd Michael Glaser and his business partner, Nelson Gonzalez, purchased the estate for $10.75 million.
MiamiCoin ‘Bitcoin Yield’ Will Be Given to City Residents
Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez has long touted cryptocurrency, even pledging to become the first elected official in America to accept his salary in bitcoin. Now, he plans to create digital wallets for all city residents and give them their own bitcoin.
While speaking with Coin Base TV, Suarez said that Miami earned more than $21 million on its new MiamiCoin since it launched in August.
Gunman High on Mushrooms Kills South Beach Diner
A young father visiting from Colorado in August was shot and killed at random while eating dinner with his family in the outdoor section of a South Beach café.
The shooting took place at La Cerveceria de Barrio on Ocean Drive near 14th Street. The victim, later identified as 21-year-old Dustin Wakefield on social media by a relative, was eating with his wife and child when the shooting happened.
Witnesses said the gunman opened fire into the café, shooting Wakefield several times, and then danced on top of his body.
Newly Adopted Dog Lost Near Everglades, Found 9 Days Later
After going missing near the Everglades April 20, a newly adopted dog was found alive weeks later after roaming the swampy area alone for nine days.
Theo, a brown-and-white mixed-breed dog, went missing after a transport van bringing him to his new family in Alpha, New Jersey crashed on U.S. 27 between Miami and Belle Glade.
The N.J. family found the abandoned pup in Homestead April 14 while vacationing there. Ashley Tirado, who adopted Theo, said he was wandering around alone, walking along a road next to a farm, not far from their Airbnb rental.
Overtown Hope Mural Celebrates Black Culture at TECO Property
With the completion of Overtown’s newest mural, a 1,200-foot-long piece celebrating the Black community, in May, the artwork immediately grabbed the title of Miami’s longest mural.
The Overtown Hope Mural even surpassed Wynwood’s infamous public art projects.
Painted at TECO Energy’s property in the neighborhood at 60 NW 17th Street, the project was completed by Moving Lives of Kids Community Mural Project (MLK), an arts organization that focuses on youth development and education.
South FL Teacher Who Sued for Ivermectin Dies Of COVID-19
A Palm Beach County kindergarten teacher at the center of a legal battle to treat her worsening COVID-19 symptoms with ivermectin, an unproven drug for treating the virus, has died.
Tamara Drock, 47 of Loxahatchee died in November, 12 weeks after being admitted to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center’s intensive care unit.