Sinkhole swallows man, part of Florida home - FOX 35 News Orlando

Sinkhole swallows man, part of Florida home

(Photo via Fox 13 WTVT) (Photo via Fox 13 WTVT)

By Stef DiPietrantonio

SEFFNER (FOX 13 WTVT TAMPA) --  The unthinkable happened to a man inside his Seffner home Thursday night.

Jeff Bush, 36, is presumed dead, after he was swallowed up by a sinkhole. It happened around 11:30 p.m. at a home on Faithway Drive.  Bush's brother Jeremy then ran in and desperately tried to save Jeff's life.

"I jumped in the hole and tried to get him out," said Bush. "I couldn't do nothing."

There was some talk, initially, that they might try to bring in some bright lights and work through the night, but it's just not safe. Now, it's a question of when or if they can ever get in there.

"I just want my brother out," said Jeremy Bush. "I don't care what they do."

Bush and his family are frustrated as they wait for crews to get safe and secure access to the sinkhole.

"There is a very large, very fluid mass underneath this house, rendering the entire house and the entire lot dangerous and unsafe," said Bill Bracken, who is a structural engineer.

Even the slightest vibration, he said, could trigger a massive collapse, making it iImpossible for now to recover Bush's body.

"This is actually unprecedented," said engineer Larry Madrid, who estimated the hole to be 20 to 30 feet in diameter. Madrid said, it started at 15 feet, then sunk to 25 feet.

"We've determined that there was an initial collapse, followed very shortly by another collapse and we have noticed movement in the ground since then," Madrid said.

The hole is deepening and as the steep walls of unstable, soft and sandy soil continue to collapse, the entire house may be swallowed up.

"Given the size of the hole, I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet," said Bracken.

The sinkhole was still collapsing as Hillsborough Deputy Doug Duvall pulled Jeremy Bush out Thursday night.

"The only thing I saw was a hole," Duvall said. "And the hole took the entire bedroom."

"I was yelling and screaming for him, yelling and screaming, telling him I'm trying to get to him," said Bush. "I swear I heard him yelling my name and I couldn't get to him."

Duvall could see Jeremy Bush clinging to the sides of the sinkhole.

"Got Mr. Bush by his hand and pulled him out," said Duvall. "I looked and I saw no one else in the hole."

Rescue crews have been using equipment sensitive enough to hear a mouse walk across the floor, but have heard nothing.

"My heart goes out to the family," said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, who added they are doing everything they possibly can, but this is not your typical sinkhole.

It's a honeycomb of a chasm. Neighbors close by have been evacuated.

"The only thing that would be worse, than what they're feeling now for their loss, would be to experience additional human loss," said Merrill.

"He's in the Lord's hands," said Bush's grandfather Buddy Wicker, who owns the home. "He's in God's hands. That's all I can say. He's in God's hands."

You can imagine the family's pain and frustration, now that they've called off any further recovery efforts Friday night.

It's just not safe and some of the rescue workers have been there nearly 24 hours. At first light, they'll try again to define where that soft zone is. And how close they can work, without the entire area just imploding beneath their feet.


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