Rescuers end effort to find body in Fla. sinkhole
Last Updated: 276 days ago
SEFFNER, Fla. - Officials have called off the effort to recover the body of a man swallowed by a sinkhole below his Florida home.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said Saturday that they were ending the effort to find Jeff Bush's body.
Bush was in his bedroom Thursday night in his home about 15 miles east of Tampa when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house escape unharmed.
Merrill says officials planned to bring in heavy equipment on Sunday to begin demolishing the home.
He says "we're dealing with a very unusual sinkhole."
Sinkholes are so common in Florida that state law requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger. While some cars, homes and other buildings have been devoured, it's extremely rare for them to swallow a person.
Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because there are caverns below ground of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water.
"You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese," said Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, Fla., said while gesturing to the ground and the sky blue home where the earth opened in Seffner. "Any house in Florida could be in that same situation."
A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.
The sinkhole, estimated at 20 feet across and 20 feet deep, caused the home's concrete floor to cave in around 11 p.m. Thursday as everyone in the Tampa-area house was turning in for the night. It gave way with a loud crash that sounded like a car hitting the house and brought Bush's brother running.
Jeremy Bush said he jumped into the hole but couldn't see his brother and had to be rescued himself by a sheriff's deputy who reached out and pulled him to safety as the ground crumbled around him.
"The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted to save my brother," Jeremy Bush said through tears Friday in a neighbor's yard. "But I just couldn't do nothing."
He added: "I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him."
A dresser and the TV set had vanished down the hole, along with most of Bush's bed.
A sheriff's deputy who was the first to respond to a frantic 911 call said when he arrived, he saw Jeremy Bush.
Deputy Douglas Duvall said he reached down as if he was "sticking his hand into the floor" to help Jeremy Bush. Duvall said he didn't see anyone else in the hole.
As he pulled Bush out, "everything was sinking," Duvall said.
Engineers said they may have to demolish the small house, even though from the outside there appeared to be nothing wrong with the four-bedroom, concrete-wall structure, built in 1974.
Jeremy Bush said someone came out to the home a couple of months ago to check for sinkholes and other things, apparently for insurance purposes.
"He said there was nothing wrong with the house. Nothing. And a couple of months later, my brother dies. In a sinkhole," Bush said.
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