Mon, Mar 04, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Rescue efforts for US man swallowed in sinkhole end

Reuters, SEFFNER, Florida

Florida rescue workers ended their efforts on Saturday to recover the body of a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his bedroom while he slept and will demolish the suburban Tampa home due to its dangerous conditions, a rescue spokeswoman said.

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

Jeff Bush, a 36-year-old landscaper, is presumed dead after vanishing into the sinkhole that opened suddenly beneath his room on Thursday night. Five other people in the house were getting ready for bed when they heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.

Jeff’s brother had to be rescued after jumping into the hole and furiously digging to find him.

Authorities used listening devices and cameras at the scene of the 9m wide hole in the ground, but detected no signs of life.

“There’s nothing compatible with life in this situation,” Damico said. “There’s no way of possible survival.”

She said the demolition of the home was to begin yesterday.

“Our data has come back and there is absolutely no way we can do any kind of recovery without endangering lives of workers,” she said.

Jeff Bush’s brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, feared earlier on Saturday that his brother was lost forever. A memorial of balloons and flowers for Jeff Bush was formed near the home that same day.

“I thank the Lord for not taking my daughter and the rest of my family,” said Jeremy, who worked with his brother in landscaping.

Jeremy himself was rescued from the sinkhole by the first responder to the emergency call, Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. When Duvall entered Jeff Bush’s bedroom, he saw a widening chasm, but no sign of Jeff.

“The hole took the entire bedroom,” Duvall said. “You could see the bedframe, the dresser, everything was sinking.”

Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy’s fiance who also lived in the house, said: “It sounded like a car ran into the back of the house.”

Damico said the hole would be stabilized after the house is demolished to ensure the safety of the surrounding area. However, the residents of two neighboring homes who were forced to evacuate are unlikely to return, she added.

Soil samples showed the sinkhole had compromised the ground beneath the homes, engineers and safety officials said on Saturday.

The residents of those houses were allowed 20 minutes to 30 minutes in their homes on Saturday to gather belongings. Firefighters and residents formed an assembly line to move items out of the houses and into SUVs and trucks.

“They’ll most likely never be allowed back in their houses,” Damico said.

Before demolishing the home where Jeff Bush lived, workers would try to move part of it to a safe space on the sidewalk to let family members retrieve some heirlooms and personal belongings yesterday, she said.

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

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.

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