Florida Man Swallowed by Sinkhole Feared Dead

Friday, 01 Mar 2013 03:21 PM

 

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SEFFNER, Fla. - A Florida man was feared dead on Friday after a sinkhole suddenly opened up under the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home and swallowed him, police and fire officials said.

Rescuers responded to a 911 call late on Thursday after the family of Jeff Bush, 36, reported hearing a loud crash in the house and rushed to his bedroom.

"All they could see was a part of a mattress sticking out of the hole," said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers. "Essentially the floor of that room had opened up."

A sheriff deputy rescued Bush's brother who had jumped in the sinkhole to try find him. Three other adults and a two-year-old child were in the house at the time the sinkhole opened up.

"I feel in my heart he didn't make it," Jeremy Bush told Tampa TV station WFTS. "There were six of us in the house, five got out."

Bush said he thought he heard his brother scream for help.

"I didn't see any part of him when I went in there," he said. "I told my father-in-law to grab a shovel and I started digging. Then the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor was still falling in.

Authorities have not detected any signs life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole and ordered the evacuation of several nearby homes out of concern the sinkhole is growing.

Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting rescuers, said the sinkhole appeared to be as wide as 30 feet and 20 feet deep.

"It started in the bedroom and it has been expanding outward and it's taking the house with it as it opens up," Bracken said.

Officials were trying to determine the exact size of the sinkhole and dropped a camera mounted on wheels into a sewer in front of the one-story, sky blue-colored house to assess whether it could collapse.

The risk of sinkholes is common in Florida due to the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

As rainwater filters down into the ground, it dissolves the rock causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.

Florida suffered one of its worst sinkhole accidents in 1994 when a 15-story-deep sinkhole opened up east of Tampa at phosphate mine.

It created a hole 185 feet deep and as much as 160 feet wide.

Rogers said rescue efforts were suspended on Friday because of concerns about the house's stability.

Workers planned to put up a fence around the house.

"Right now we're trying to determine what if anything we can do. This is a very difficult situation. It's beneath our feet. We can't see anything," he said.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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