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Ohio Task Force One heading home after helping in Surfside

Surfside condo
Posted at 8:41 PM, Jul 12, 2021

Ohio Task Force One, which has been helping with rescue and recovery efforts in the deadly Surfside, Florida condo collapse, are packing up and readying for the trip back home.

Kurt Thomas and Ryan Marzheuser, two of the 80-member team comprising the task force, are firefighters from Covington. Though the pair worked opposite shifts, they were a part of the largest non-hurricane response in Florida history.

"In the urban search and rescue world of FEMA, this hasn't happened since 9/11," said Marzheuser.

The task force helped sift through 14 million pounds of concrete and debris in a space Marzheuser said was smaller than Fountain Square.

"You went from a building that was maybe 13 stories high -- the one that was still left," he said. "When we walked on the pile the first night here, it was maybe six stories high compacted down."

Thomas was among the first in after the Surfside building was demolished.

"It just allowed us more access to different parts of the, of what was left of the structure, to go to work and do what we came down here to do," he said.

Both said the mission required far more physical labor than most, with long, humid days spent lifting and moving heavy debris alongside heavy emotions.

"You remember back in 9/11 they had that wall of everyone hanging pictures of their loved ones up?" said Marzheuser. "So that's on the front side of that building, they have a fence where they were doing that."

The memorial was a striking visual for Thomas too, from the first day the task force arrived.

"That's when it became real for me," he said. "When we first pulled up on our first day, all the pictures of people on the fence and the friends and families around there. But I mean, as soon as we got off the bus, it was support for us too, thanking us for being there. That's what I'll take home."

The pair, along with their team, spent Monday packing and preparing for the trip back home, which will begin on Tuesday.