PA-Task Force rescuer shares details about helping during Surfside recovery efforts

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Pennsylvania team of rescuers is back home after spending weeks helping out in Surfside, Florida.

PA-Task Force 1 responded to be part of the recovery effort shortly after the Champlain Towers collapsed. On Friday evening they returned after two weeks there.

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Governor Tom Wolf was there to welcome them home.

“They represented their state with great dignity and honor and I think they showed Pennsylvania’s best side,” Wolf said.

George Drees is one of the returning rescuers.

“When we got there we went to work, all of us, all 80 went to work for a 12 hour period, and then we went into 12-hour rotational shifts,” Drees said. “We’re basically a rescue city when we show up.”

They spent hours sifting through the rubble of the building, drilling holes for cameras, breaking concrete, cutting metal and searching. But soon they turned from rescue to recovery.

“I think the biggest thing is we brought closure with dignity to the families, and the loved ones and the friends for the people that are down there,” Drees said.

Part of that included collecting belongings like wedding albums and passports.

“Everything that you find in and around those human remains are precious to people,” Drees said.

He says the task force did everything they could to help while there, and they brought back important lessons for the future.

“The lives we save from that incident weren’t the lives that were caught in the collapse, they’re the lives we’re going to save in the future with code enforcement, changes to architectural and engineering things,” Drees said. “So this doesn’t happen again.”

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