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Dix Hills native Gary Cohen found dead in rubble of collapsed Florida condo 

A search-and-rescue team member moves through the debris

A search-and-rescue team member moves through the debris field of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday. Credit: AP/Al Diaz

A Dix Hills native was found dead in the rubble of the Surfside, Florida, building collapse, while search crews continue to look for his older brother and 60 others who are still missing in the debris.

The Miami-Dade Police Department confirmed Thursday in a Tweet that it had recovered the body of Dr. Gary Cohen, 58, a father of two and attending physician at Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center in Alabama, on Wednesday.

Gary Cohen had traveled to Surfside, a beach town just across Biscayne Bay from Miami, on June 23 to visit his ailing father and to celebrate his parents' wedding anniversary. He was staying in his brother Dr. Brad Cohen's apartment on the 11th floor of Champlain Towers South when the oceanfront condominium collapsed.

Rabbi Yaakov Saacks, who runs the Lubavitch Chai Center of Dix Hills, has known the Cohens for 25 years and spoke with Gary Cohen's wife, Mindy.

"She says it's very surreal that she's a widow and her kids have no father," said Saacks, who visited the family in Florida last week.

But the rabbi said finding the body can provide some small solace to the family.

"They can begin to grieve and can begin to mourn and put things into perspective," he said. "Until you find the body you're in limbo. It's such a bad position."

Gary Cohen's burial will be Sunday in Alabama, Saacks said. Some members of the Cohen family will travel to Alabama for the service while others remain in Florida waiting for news on Brad Cohen, he said.

Efforts by Newsday to reach members of the Cohen family Friday were unsuccessful.

In an interview last week, Morton Cohen, the family's patriarch, described waiting for news about his two sons as "terrible" and said they were praying for a miracle.

"We’re all saying our prayers," Cohen said. "That’s what we want everyone to do. Pray for them."

The death toll in Surfside rose to 79 on Friday, while 61 others are still unaccounted for and presumed dead. The process, officials said, has now shifted from rescue to recovery as crews are no longer expecting to find survivors.

The two brothers, raised on Long Island, are physicians. A third brother, Neil Cohen, lives in Medford.

Brad Cohen is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine with offices in Miami, while also working in a local emergency room as an on-call trauma surgeon. After earning his medical degree at the Cincinnati School of Medicine, Cohen, a father of two, took a general surgery internship and orthopedic surgery residency at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Gary Cohen, who spent four years in residency at the Rusk Institute of Rehab in Manhattan, had more than 20 years of experience as a physiatrist and focuses on physical training and rehabilitation.

"Dr. Cohen will be missed by our veterans and staff," John Merkle, director of the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center, said in a statement. "Our facility mourns the loss of one of our own and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who knew and loved him."

Also still missing in the rubble is Judy Spiegel, who grew up in South Bellmore and raised her family in Plainview and later, Southampton. The retired Merrill Lynch stockbroker, who volunteered at Southampton Hospital's Ellen Hermanson Breast Center, was alone in her apartment on the sixth floor of Champlain Towers South at the time of the collapse.

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