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'A bright life': Ontario family remembers daughter killed in Florida condo collapse

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TORONTO -

Anastasiya Gromova and Michelle Pazos travelled to Florida as a way to celebrate their friendship.

“It was supposed to be a two-week vacation to Miami,” Larysa Gromova, Anastasiya’s mother, told CTV News Toronto Wednesday.

“The ocean and the flowers and everything. It was supposed to be great.”

But the two-week trip took a tragic turn when both women became victims of the Champlain Towers South building condo collapse in Surfside, Florida on June 24.

Pazos and her father were declared deceased when their remains were recovered and identified on July 7.

Anastasiya remains were officially identified on Wednesday.

“I still can’t believe it had to be that building, that townhouse. It was her first time in Miami,” Gromova said.

Anastasiya was studying Marketing and Business at McGill University when she met Pazos and the two became best friends quickly, Gromova explained.

She had recently been accepted to teach English in Japan starting in September.

“They realized in the spring that, come fall, they would be separated,” Gromova said.

That’s when they decided to take the trip to Miami. Gromova says that up until the day she went missing, Anastasiya was sending her cheerful updates and photos of her trip.

“She was happy up until the last day of her life,” she said.

Gromova was able to spend more time with Anastasiya in the last year than previous ones, as the pandemic had her studying from home.

She describes Anastasiya as a “proud” student.

“After her one-year contract [in Japan], she was deciding what to do next. She had many, many plans — Plan A, B, C and D. If A doesn’t work, she’d go to Plan B and so on,” she said.

“But, she always wanted to do something else, like travel.”

Anastasiya's family had been waiting in Florida, hoping for news of her identification, since June 27. 

Gromova says she's feeling a mix of emotions at the discovery of her daughter's remains.

"Yeah, it's awful. But at least, you know, awful and happy and tears of relief," she said.

She says that officials and those working on recovery efforts haven't gone unappreciated.

"They were so nice and so amazing. And they've done such amazing work," Gromova said.

The Gromova family has also been able to find comfort in the makeshift community that came together to support victim’s families.

“The community here is filled with amazing people,” she said.

FILE - In this Saturday, June 26, 2021, file photo, rescue workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, in Surfside, Fla. Even as the search continues over a week later for signs of life in the mangled debris of the fallen Champlain Towers South, the process of seeking answers about why it happened and who is to blame is already underway in Florida's legal system. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

The first Canadian whose remains were found was identified by officials as 66-year-old Ingrid "Itty" Ainsworth, formerly of Montreal.

Michelle and her father, 55-year-old Miguel Pazos were the second and third Canadians to be recovered and identitied.

The identification of Anastasiya's remains marks the fourth Canadian found.

Officials report a total of 97 victims — 96 of which have been recovered and identified so far.

At the end of the day, Gromova wants her daughter to be remembered fondly and often, she says.

“She had a very bright life. She did a lot.” 

With files from the Associated Press.

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