Feared dead: Jeff Bush was sucked into a 100-ft-wide sinkhole that opened under his bedroom.
Crews have begun razing the home of Florida man Jeff Bush who was swallowed by a sinkhole under the house as officials have deemed it too dangerous to continue searching for his body.
A heavy machine with a large bucket scoop was moved into position on what is believed to be solid ground, at a close enough distance that workers can still reach onto the property and pull the house apart, Jessica Damico, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue told reporters.
The effort to find Bush’s body was called off Saturday while crews tried to learn how far the underground cavity reaches and whether more homes are at risk.
The 20-foot-wide opening of the sinkhole was almost covered by the house, and rescuers said there were no signs of life since the hole opened Thursday night.
Jeremy Bush, the man who tried to save his brother, was escorted with a woman by a deputy to the front of the house early Sunday before equipment moved into position.
He repositioned some flowers from a makeshift memorial to a safer location, where Bush and the unidentified women knelt in prayer.
People gathered on lawn chairs, bundled up with blankets against unusually chilly weather.
Several dozen milled about within view, including officials and reporters.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said officials had talked to Bush family Sunday. Crews would try their best to move the structure forward, toward the street, so the family can get some belongings, Merrill said.
‘We don’t know, in fact, whether it will collapse or whether it will hold up,’ he said.
Demolition: Positioning equipment on what they believe is solid ground, crews begin tearing down Bush’s house
Mystery: As the site is cleared, crews hope to discover how deep the cavity goes and if any other houses are still at risk
Memorial: Bush’s friends and family gathered at the site to remember their lost friend, with some kneeling to say a silent prayer as demolition began
He said crews’ goal for Sunday is to knock down the house, and on Monday they will clear the debris as much as possible to allow officials and engineers to see the sinkhole in the open.
‘At this point it’s really not possible to recover the body,’ said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, later adding ‘we’re dealing with a very unusual sinkhole.’
Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night in Seffner – a suburb of 8,000 people 15 miles east of downtown Tampa – when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house escape unharmed.
Missed: Jeremy Bush prays in front of the house, where his brother Jeffrey was swallowed by a sinkhole, before its demolition
Tearful: Jeremy Bush wipes his face after praying in front of the house as crews get ready to raze the structure
On Saturday, the normally quiet neighborhood of concrete block homes painted in Florida pastels was jammed with cars as engineers, reporters, and curious onlookers came to the scene.
At the home next door to the Bushes, a family cried and organized boxes. Testing determined that their house also was compromised by the sinkhole, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Ronnie Rivera. The family, which had evacuated Friday, was allowed to go inside for about a half-hour to gathering belongings.
Investigation: Once the house is knocked down, they will clear the debris as much as possible on Monday to allow officials and engineers to see the sinkhole in the open
Lost: Officials said there was no way to recover Bush’s body as the sinkhole was so unique
Sisters Soliris and Elbairis Gonzalez, who live on the same street as Bushes, said rumors were circulating among neighbors, with people concerned for their safety.
“I’ve had nightmares,” Soliris Gonzalez, 31, said. “In my dreams, I keep checking for cracks in the house.”
They said the family has discussed where to go if forced to evacuate, and they’ve taken their important documents to a storage unit.
Crushed: Demolition experts watch as the home of Jeff Bush, 37, is destroyed Sunday
Memories: Officials say they will try to drag the structure close to safe ground so family can try and recover some of Bush’s belongings
“The rest of it, this is material stuff, as long as our family is fine,” Soliris Gonzalez said.
“You never know underneath the ground what’s happening,” added Elbairis Gonzalez, 30.
Experts say thousands of sinkholes erupt yearly in Florida because of the state’s unique geography, though most are small and deaths rarely occur.
Tragic: Jeremy Bush could hear his brother calling for help but said there was nothing he could do to save him
All day: The demolition is likely to continue to Monday before the sinkhole can be examined
“There’s hardly a place in Florida that’s immune to sinkholes,” said Sandy Nettles, who owns a geology consulting company in the Tampa area. “There’s no way of ever predicting where a sinkhole is going to occur.”
Most sinkholes are small, like one found Saturday morning in Largo, 35 miles away from Seffner. The Largo sinkhole, at about 10 feet long and several feet wide, is in a mall parking lot. Such discoveries are common throughout the year in Florida.
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Gone: Brother Jeremy Bush reacts after placing flowers and a stuffed animal at a makeshift memorial in front of a home where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom late Thursday evening and swallowed sibling Jeffrey in Seffner, Florida
Condemned:The home where Mr Bush disappeared into the sinkhole is set to be demolished
Horror: A man is presumed dead after a sinkhole opened up beneath his house in Brandon, Florida, pictured
Hidden: The sinkhole is only visible from inside the house but could be 100 foot wide under the surface
The state is prone because it sits on limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, with a layer of clay on top. The clay is thicker in some locations – including the area where Bush became a victim – making them even more prone to sinkholes.
Jonathan Arthur, the state geologist and director of the Florida Geological Survey, said other states sit atop limestone in a similar way, but Florida has additional factors – extreme weather, development, aquifer pumping and construction – that can cause sinkholes. “The conditions under which a sinkhole will form can be very rapid, or they can form slowly over time,” he said.
But it remained unclear Saturday what, if anything, caused the Seffner sinkhole.
“The condition that caused that sinkhole could have started a million years ago,” Nettles said.
Engineers had been testing in the area of the Bush house since 7 a.m. Saturday. By 10 a.m., officials moved media crews farther away so experts could test a home across the street.
Experts spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running tests – while acknowledging that the entire lot where Bush lay entombed was dangerous. On Saturday, officials were still not allowing anyone in the Bush home.
Jeremy Bush, who tried to rescue his brother, lay flowers and a stuffed lamb near the house Saturday morning and wept.
He said someone came to his home a couple of months ago to check for sinkholes and other issues, apparently for insurance purposes, but found nothing wrong. State law requires home insurers to provide coverage against sinkholes.
“And a couple of months later, my brother dies. In a sinkhole,” Bush said Friday.
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.
Rescue efforts to retrieve the body of a Florida man sucked into a 100-ft-deep sinkhole that opened beneath his bedroom have stalled on Saturday for fear the entire home will collapse.
Florida authorities described the sinkhole as ‘seriously unstable’ and said the massive opening will likely continue to grow.
A terrifying scene unfolded at the home in Brandon, near Tampa, on Thursday night when Jeff Bush, 37, was swallowed into the massive opening and trapped beneath the rubble. He is presumed dead.
The sinkhole swallowed part of the interior of the house and though the home’s exterior appears to be intact, rescuers fear the ground is unstable.
Tests have revealed a considerable amount of water accumulating beneath the structure, making efforts even more dangerous.
Heartbreak: Jeremy Bush, whose brother Jeff was sucked into a sinkhole, breaks down outside the home
Grief: Jeremy had rushed to his brother’s room when he heard his screams but it was too late
Shock: The man recounted how he had tried to save his brother but could only see the bed in the hole
Local engineers were expected to continue carrying out tests on Saturday to determine if rescuers could enter the home.
Bill Bracken, an engineer with Hillsborough County Urban Search and Rescue team told ABC News the house ‘should have collapsed by now, so it’s amazing that it hasn’t.’
The search team expressed their frustration on Friday night as the sinkhole kept increasing in size, starting at 15 ft deep and growing to 100 ft deep, making it too perilous to continue.
Speaking to ABC News, Hillsborough County Officials said it was too unstable to use the equipment needed to try and reach the man.
‘Until we know where it’s safe to bring the equipment, we really are just handicapped and paralyzed and can’t really do a whole lot more than sit and wait,’ Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Rogers said.
‘It’s a tough situation; it’s even tougher for the family.’
Crews have cautiously been using ground penetrating sonar equipment at the site to map the subsurface throughout the day.
Workers swarmed the area as Jeremy Bush, 36, recalled how he desperately tried to pull his brother, Jeff, from the rubble as he heard his screams for help.
‘We heard a loud crash,’ Jeremy told My Fox Tampa Bay as he broke down in tears. ‘I ran in there and heard somebody screaming, my brother screaming, and I ran in there.
‘And all I see is this big hole. All I see is the top of his bed. I didn’t see anything else, so I jumped in the hole and tried getting him out.
“The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn’t care. I wanted to save my brother. I could hear him screaming for me, hollering for me. I couldn’t do nothing.’
The dresser and the TV set also vanished down the hole, he said.
‘All I could see was the cable wire running from the TV going down into the hole. I saw a corner of the bed and a corner of the box spring and the frame of the bed,’ he said.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials arrived at the home at 11 p.m. on Thursday and the first officer on the scene rescued Jeremy Bush from the edge of the chasm.
Lt. Donald Morris from Hillbosourgh County Sheriff’s Department described the scene officers found.
‘The mattress, the bed, everything was actually going down in the hole where the first person had gone and now the second person is in the hole trying to save the first,’ he said.
‘And they’re not being successful so [the rescuer is] just reacting and doing what they have to do to get that person out. It was deep enough that the person he pulled out to safety was not ale to fully extend their arms and even reach the top.’
Hunt: Officials use ground penetrating sonar to map the subsurface around the home to determine the extent of the danger. Crews will take this information and create a plan of action to recover Bush
Recovery effort: Crews deploy a cable controlled robot into a storm drain to look for additional damage
Search: A technician views a live video feed from a robot sent into a storm drain underneath the property
Listening devices and cameras were placed in the hole but there had been no contact with the missing man by early Friday.
‘We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn’t see anything compatible with life,’ Fire rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said.
She said that the sinkhole was 30 feet across at the surface, but that engineers have estimated that below the surface it could be as wide as 100 feet and 50 feet deep.
‘The entire house is on the sinkhole,’ Damico said.
Rescue attempt: His brother heard his screams for help and rushed to his room where he saw the huge hole
Mourning: Family members are seen comforting each other outside the Tampa area home on Friday morning
Engineers said they may have to demolish the small, sky-blue house, even though from the outside, there appeared to be nothing wrong with the four-bedroom, concrete-wall structure, built in 1974.
The sinkhole is not visible above ground except from inside the house, and officials believe its center is beneath the bedroom. From the outside, there are no cracks visible.
The Bush home in Brandon is located in Hillsborough County which has been dubbed ‘Sinkhole Alley.’
Florida’s environmental agency estimates that more than 500 sinkholes have been reported in the area since 1954.
Condemned: The home and other properties nearby have been evacuated in fear the hole could grow
Probe: Engineers work in front of a home as they try to determine the size of the sinkhole
Search: They believe the sinkhole could be 100ft wide and 50ft deep, but their investigations continue
Search: Officials arrived on the scene at 11.30 p.m. but have so far found no sign that the man is alive
Five adults and a two-year-old child were in the house at the time of the collapse, but no one else was injured.
Janell Wheeler told the Tampa Bay Times she was inside the house when the sinkhole opened.
‘It sounded like a car hit my house,’ she said, adding that there were screams as one of her nephews rushed to rescue his brother from the debris.
The rest of the family went to a hotel but she stayed behind with her dog and slept in her car.
‘I just want my nephew,’ she said through tears.
Officials evacuated neighbors living on either side of the home, which they say could be swallowed into the ground at any moment.
The Bush home has been condemned so the family will not be able to retrieve their belongings. To help the family, the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue has established a fund and is asking for donations.
‘It’s the only one we’ve seen that opened up in this manner there is no evidence of the structure cracking or anything like that on the outside of the house,’ Dexter Barge with Hillsborough County’s Code Enforcement told WFLA.
Anthony Randazzo, an expert in sinkholes, said he knows of only two people, who both lived in Florida, who have died because of a sinkhole in 40 years of his studies.
‘Usually, you have some time,’ Randazzo told USA Today. ‘These catastrophic sinkholes give you some warning over the course of hours. This is very unusual and very tragic.’
Bizarre: An aerial view of the home shows no sign of the sinkhole which claimed the man’s life
DANGER UNDERGROUND: WHY DO SINKHOLES OCCUR?
Watch out: Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania are the states most affected by sinkholes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey
A sinkhole is a hole that opens up suddenly in the ground. They mostly occur because of erosion or underground water that gathers naturally or due to man-made activities.
When this water dissolves the foundation beneath the surface layer, spaces and caverns develop underground. Limestone, carbonate rock, and salt beds are particular vulnerable to this erosion.
Meanwhile, the top layer of Earth usually stays intact. When the dissolving area beneath the surface becomes too large, the surface suddenly gives way.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania are the states most affected by sinkholes.
While they often occur from natural causes, sinkholes can be man-made and caused by human activity. Groundwater pumping and construction are the most likely culprits. They can also occur when water drainage systems are changed.