MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Agueros spent the day before the collapse at Champlain Towers South smiling, swimming in the ocean, and spending time together.

“My parents owned the apartment, so we came down and were trying to have a good time and up until that moment, we were having a really good time,” said Albert Aguero, who survived the Surfside condo collapse.

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Their first vacation, as a family of four since COVID, turned into a tragedy for so many around them and it started with what the New Jersey family thought was lightning hitting the building.

“Was the big boom which woke us up, walls shaking and really loud noise,” said Albert.

“My feeling is horror, shock, disbelief,” said Janette Aguero.

“My wife jumped out of bed to check on the kids and when she did that she said come out here this is big, the chandeliers were all moving,” added Albert.

Neighboring units had already disintegrated into dust. Clouds of concrete billowed around them. Once the roof caved in, they began to make their desperate escape from the 11th floor with their 14 and 22-year-old kids.

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“Look out directly. In front of us and the two elevator shafts are just holes. So, we sprint to the stairwell and when we open the door that’s when it hit me because the wall for the stairwell was a big open-air stairwell,” said Albert.

“We get downstairs as fast as possible. When we got to the third floor we encountered an elderly lady who needed help getting down, so my son and I helped her get down to the first floor, make sure nobody got trampled.”

Eventually, encountering flooding and crushed cars. The botton floor of the building had already sunk several feet into the ground.

“When we got down there, we had to crawl up rubble, with this elderly lady about three feet worth. That got us basically to the pool deck and the pool deck had a three-foot gap as well and we had to jump and then sprint to the beach.”

In that moment, snapping a picture, showing the crumbling building – illuminated by flashing emergency lights in the middle of the night. Heartbroken by what happened. Still shocked they survived.

“I can’t believe how we made it out, I can’t believe that we were given another day to be here,” said Janette.

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“There are good times where we are so happy. The four of us made it out OK and then times when we think how close we can to being less fortunate and all the people in the building with us who didn’t make it out, didn’t even have a chance — I think for me that’s one of the hardest things,” said Albert.

CBSMiami.com Team