Florida home where sinkhole swallowed man is partially razed

SEFFNER, Florida Sun Mar 3, 2013 2:13pm EST

1 of 10. Demolition crews and Hillsborough County Fire Department watch as the house, where Jeffrey Bush was swallowed by a sinkhole, is demolished in Seffner, Florida March 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Scott Audette

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SEFFNER, Florida (Reuters) - A wrecking crew on Sunday partly razed a Florida house where a sinkhole had swallowed up a man as he slept but the demolition team went about its job as carefully as possible to preserve the home's contents for survivors.

Rescue workers had given up the search for Jeff Bush, a 37-year-old landscaper, on Saturday. He was presumed dead after disappearing into the hole, which opened up under his bedroom Thursday night. Sinkholes are common in Florida due to the state's geology and they are virtually impossible to predict.

With a crowd of a few dozen family members and others watching, a boom crane clawed at the one-story suburban home for about two hours, demolishing about half of it. The job was due to be completed on Monday.

Jeremy Bush, Jeff's brother, who had jumped into the sinkhole in a futile attempt to save him, said the family was discussing plans for a memorial service and a possible marker at the site.

Asked how he was feeling, Bush, 36, told Reuters: "Just sad, sad that they couldn't get my brother out."

"He was a good guy. He would give you the shirt off his back," Bush said of his brother.

Five other people in the house, which is owned by the family of Jeremy Bush's fiancée, had been preparing for bed Thursday when they heard a loud crash and Bush screaming.

STABILIZING THE PIT

Once the house is torn down, efforts will begin to stabilize the sinkhole, said William Puz, a spokesman for Hillsborough County. The hole was about 30 feet wide and 60 feet deep and filled with clay and debris.

The crane's bucket first removed the garage eaves from the house and a U.S. flag there, carrying it to the sidewalk. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue workers folded the flag and handed it to family members.

The crane then probed through the master bedroom and swept family memorabilia, boxes, luggage, dresser drawers, framed photos, a woman's purse and other items out of the house and placed them near the sidewalk.

Crane operator Dan Darnell spoke to family members after work halted and "it was an incredibly emotional meeting," Puz said.

Before the demolition started, Jeremy Bush, a landscaper like his brother, was escorted by a deputy sheriff to the mailbox at the start of the driveway. He knelt and put flowers on the ground, bowing his head for a few minutes before getting up and retreating behind police tape.

Wanda Carter, 49, who had grown up in the house, said she could not watch as it was being torn down.

"We have each other and that's all that matters," Carter told reporters as she clutched a massive family Bible, its cover torn off and bearing marks from the crane's bucket.

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

Two nearby houses have been evacuated because the sinkhole has weakened the ground under them, and their residents probably will never be allowed inside again, said Jessica Damico of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

They were allowed 20 to 30 minutes in their homes on Saturday to gather belongings.

(Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Philip Barbara and Bill Trott)

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Comments (4)
I would like Florida fundamentalists to please explain to me exactly what god had in mind dropping this helpless soul into the void. Or is this part of whats unknowable? Jesus.

Mar 03, 2013 2:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
RoyDutcher wrote:
Looking at this situation from a distance is a lot easier. Even so, it is hard for me to believe this was the best we could do for this family. I watched as a track hoe smashed things sending even more debris into the hole on top of a man or his body while family members stood by watching with horror. I am sure we have better methods than a track hoe smashing and breaking things that are quite possible irreplaceable. What was the hurry? Couldn’t you have temporarily bridged and cover the hole, then take the top of the house away. Perhaps then someone could have been lowered into the hole to look for a survivor? I know hind sight is much better, but what was the hurry? What was to be gained by rushing to demolish this house? I do not get it. Please help me understand.

Mar 03, 2013 2:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
philly12 wrote:
I want to answer aurum79. I am not a Florida Fundamentalists,but I am part of the body of Christ. All thru the New Testament you will read about suffering and sorrow,Christ told us to pick up our cross Daily. This means turning over your life to him. If Mr Bush was saved, I believe he now is in Heaven. Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. How many of us realize our own thoughts,motives,and strengths or the deeds of others..How can we understand GOds ways. We are not to challenge him, but to accept his plan. He breathed the life we have into us and he will take it away. Christ died on the cross for every sinner, and arose to show us If we are born of the Spirit,we shall never die, but have everlasting life with him in Heaven.

Mar 03, 2013 5:40pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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