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Vanderbilt student was visiting his godfather when condo tower fell

Authorities confirmed Wednesday that Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21, was among the dead.
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SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. — By next summer, Andreas Giannitsopoulos, a student at Vanderbilt University, had hoped to start carving out his lane in the world of finance.

He would graduate from the Nashville college and use his degree to venture into real estate and take care of his family.

But Giannitsopoulos, who would have been a senior in the fall, was among the victims in the Champlain Towers South condo collapse near Miami, authorities said Wednesday. He was 21.

“My son was the strongest person I know and the best part of my day. We had such plans for his future,” said his mother, Tina Giannitsopoulos, sobbing Wednesday after authorities confirmed they had found her son.

She, other family members and friends were staying at a rental complex outside Miami while they waited to hear whether he had been found. Giannitsopoulos was majoring in economics, had three minors and completed a finance accounting internship with Giorgetti in 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He was on the track team at Vanderbilt, said his friends who traveled to Florida after learning he might be trapped in the fallen 12-story building.

“He was a great competitor, always laughing and smiling and he was a great team leader,” said Joseph Malouf, Giannitsopoulos’ former track coach at St. Thomas High School in Houston.

Image; Joseph Malouf is the former high school track coach to Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21.
Joseph Malouf is Andreas Giannitsopoulos' former high school track coach. Deon J. Hampton / NBC News

Over the years, they grew close through their rigorous gym workouts, and they had been lifting weights and training in Houston this summer.

“That’s how we bonded," Malouf said Thursday. "He was about the only person who could keep up with me. Most of my workout partners work out for one day and don’t come back again.”

Giannitsopoulos was in Surfside visiting his godfather on his second trip there in the past month, Malouf said.

Giannitsopoulos' relatives got through the tense days before his death was confirmed by trading stories and jokes about him, friends said. Earlier this week, they all went to a spot near the collapsed building site and “screamed out his name.”

“I have a pretty loud voice," Malouf said. "If he was in there, he heard me.”

But then came word that authorities had found him. Before Tina Giannitsopoulos went to meet with detectives, she belted out a loud cry. It took a few minutes for her to regain her composure.

“I’m so proud of you Andreas, thanks for being the best boy in the world," she said. "I know everybody says that, but he was truly gold.”