'Please don't leave me': Boy trapped in Florida condo rubble rescued by man walking dog

Nicholas Balboa was walking his dog around midnight when he felt the ground shake. The rumble was followed by a loud crash and debris as part of a condo complex collapsed in Surfside, Florida.

“At first I thought it was a thunderstorm but then I felt a shake and I knew thunder doesn't make the ground shake,” Balboa told USA TODAY. “I knew it wasn't normal so I decided to figure out what was going on."

Balboa said it was "eerily quiet" as he and another person approached piles of concrete and metal. Police and first responders had not yet arrived when Balboa heard a scream.

More: What we know about those missing in the Miami condo building collapse

Saturday updates: Crews will 'not stop' as search continues for 159 missing

Balboa said he spotted little fingers pop out through the broken concrete and heard a boy's voice say, "Can somebody see me?"

He climbed over rubble to reach the boy, later identified as Jonah Handler.

While walking his dog after midnight, Nicholas Balboa felt the ground shake. He then rushed over to the scene of the Florida Condo collapse.
While walking his dog after midnight, Nicholas Balboa felt the ground shake. He then rushed over to the scene of the Florida Condo collapse.

“He was just saying, 'Please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me.' I told him: 'We’re not gonna go anywhere. We’re staying,'" Balboa said.

Balboa said the boy evidently had been sleeping when the building collapsed because he was found underneath a mattress and bed frame, News Nation Now reported. Balboa used the his phones flashlight to get the attention of police officers, who eventually pulled him to safety.

Balboa said the boy's mother was not immediately found. Relatives on Friday announced the death of Stacie Fang, Jonah's mother, in a statement.

“There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie," the statement said.

Recently, Balboa's mother died so he said he understands the loss Jonah just experienced.

"I know what that that loss feels like, but especially in this situation, it's just so much worse than anyone can possibly imagine," Balboa said.

Balboa said he rushed to help because he felt "something had to be done" although he wishes he could've done more.

"I wish I wasn't just wearing flip flops so I could've gotten closer to him or looked for his mom more. I knew something had to be done so I helped, but I wish I could've helped his mother and others too," Balboa said.

Early Thursday, the 12-story beachfront condominium building just north of Miami collapsed, killing at least four people. As of Friday, 159 people remained unaccounted for. Among those missing were Orthodox Jews from Russia, Argentine Americans and the sister of Paraguay's first lady.

Late Thursday, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of nearby property owner and various victims seeking more than $5 million in damages. The suit filed against against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association Inc. alleges the condominium did not repair structural problems and failed to prevent the collapse.

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida man walking dog near condo collapse rescues boy from rubble