Commander of the IDF delegation sums up mission to Surfside

“Each time we saw the Israeli flag, we saw the excitement in people’s eyes. It helped us to understand why we went there.”

Yoni Kempinski ,

Col. res. Golan Vach
Col. res. Golan Vach
Photo: IDF

IDF Col. (Res.) Golan Vach, head of the Israeli military team dispatched to the site of the apartment building collapse in south Florida last month, returned to Israel two weeks ago after authorities located nearly all of the victims of the catastrophic collapse.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Vach described the important role the IDF team played in locating the remains of the victims, and helping the local search and rescue teams extract the bodies intact.

Almost all of the located victims were found by the Israeli team?

“Exactly. Most of the located people were found by us and the extraction of the missing people was done mainly by the American teams. We were part of this operation.”

What are your feelings about this mission?

“We felt that we had a privilege to be the first assisting delegation,” said Vach. “We felt a great responsibility on our shoulders.”

“According to our plan, we should find those people in a shorter time than [authorities] thought in the beginning.”

While it was understood that there were no survivors, you made sure not to harm the bodies of the victims.

“We are talking about the families. The missing people do not feel anything, unfortunately. But we are talking mainly about the families – to get their loved ones in one piece, quickly and to know that we treat them in respect, gently in those last moments when they were pulled out. It brings comfort [to the families], and for us, it was a Jewish and human mission.”

“We worked with bulldozers, but the trick is how to work with bulldozers without harming anybody. This is our profession. And we succeeded. All of the missing people we extracted were intact.”

You used IDF techniques and technology during the mission in Surfside.

“Yes. Unfortunately, the IDF has earned its experience in many incidents in the past. We brought our methodology and the technology from Israel, support technology, which helped us a lot.”

“We could know exactly where the people are located, on what room we’re standing, and what steps should be taken to pull the people out.”

Vach went on to describe the “deep pride” he felt representing the State of Israel during the mission in Surfside.

“Each time we saw the Israeli flag we saw the excitement in the citizens’ eyes – especially in the Jewish community – it helped us to understand why we went there.”