SEFFNER, Fla. — Florida rescue personnel on Saturday searched for a Florida man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his whole bedroom while he was asleep in his suburban Tampa home.
Jeff Bush, 36, who is presumed dead, was in bed when the other five members of the household who were getting ready for bed on Thursday night heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.
Jeff’s brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, jumped into the hole and furiously kept digging to find his brother.
Jeremy himself had to be 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, all he saw was a widening chasm but no sign of Jeff.
“The hole took the entire bedroom,” said Duvall. “You could see the bedframe, the dresser, everything was sinking,” he said.
Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy’s fiancee who also lived in the house, ran to get a flashlight and shovel.
“It sounded like a car ran into the back of the house,” Wicker said.
Authorities have not detected any signs of life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole.
“There is a very large, very fluid mass underneath this house rendering the entire house and the entire lot dangerous and unsafe,” Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting fire and rescue officials, told the news conference late on Friday.
“We are still trying to determine the extent and nature of what’s down there so we can best determine how to approach it and how to extricate,” Bracken said.
After suspending the search overnight, it resumed at daylight on Saturday, with engineering consultants trying to determine the extent of the collapse so that a perimeter boundary can be established for setting up heavy equipment for future excavation.
In addition, listening devices were being used to detect any evidence of life although Bush was presumed dead. Rescue officials said they were focusing on engineering analysis including soil samples, ground penetration radar and other techniques to determine the extent of the ongoing collapse.
Several nearby homes were evacuated in case the 30-foot wide sinkhole got larger but officials said it only appeared to be getting deeper.
The Bush brothers worked together as landscapers, according to Leland Wicker, 48, one of the other residents of the house.
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.
Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Sandra Maler.