Fla. man presumed dead after sinkhole opens under his bed

A 100-foot sinkhole opened up under this house in Brandon, Fla., trapping a man who was asleep in his bedroom. WTSP

SEFFNER, Fla. A man was missing and feared dead early Friday after a large sinkhole opened under the bedroom of a house near Tampa.

Jeff Bush is presumed dead after a sinkhole opened under his bed.
CBS

His brother says Jeff Bush screamed for help before he disappeared.

The 36-year-old man's brother, Jeremy Bush, told rescue crews he heard a loud crash around 11 p.m. Thursday, then heard his brother screaming for help.

"When he got there, there was no bedroom left," Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said. "There was no furniture. All he saw was a piece of the mattress sticking up."

Jeremy Bush called 911 and frantically tried to help his brother Jeff. He said he jumped into the hole and dirt was quickly up to his neck.

"The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted to save my brother," Jeremy said. "But I just couldn't do nothing."

An arriving deputy pulled Jeremy Bush from the still-collapsing house.

"I reached down and was able to actually able to get him by his hand and pull him out of the hole," Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy Douglas Duvall said. "The hole was collapsing. At that time, we left the house."

Engineers worked to determine the size of the sinkhole. At the surface, officials estimated it was about 30 feet across. Below the surface, officials believed it was 100 feet wide.

"The entire house is on the sinkhole," Damico said.

Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Rogers told a news briefing that extra-sensitive listening devices and cameras were inserted into the sinkhole. "They did not detect any signs of life," he said.

By early Friday, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials determined the home had become too unstable to continue rescue efforts.

Neighbors on both sides of the home have been evacuated.

Sinkholes are common in seaside Florida, whose underlying limestone and dolomite can be worn away by water and chemicals, then collapse.

Engineers condemned the house, reports CBS Tampa affiliate WTSP.

From the outside of the small, sky blue house, nothing appeared wrong. There wear no cracks and the only sign something was amiss was the yellow caution tape circling the house.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon said authorities asked sinkhole and engineering experts, and they were using equipment to see if the ground can support the weight of heavy machinery needed for the recovery effort.

Jeremy Bush stood in a neighbor's yard across the street from the house Friday and recounted the harrowing collapse.

"He was screaming my name. I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him," he said of his brother Jeff.

Jeremy Bush's wife and his 2-year-old daughter were also inside the house. "She keeps asking where her Uncle Jeff is," he said. "I lost everything. I work so hard to support my wife and kid and I lost everything."

Janell Wheeler told the Tampa Bay Times newspaper she was inside the house with four other adults and a child when the sinkhole opened.

"It sounded like a car hit my house," she said.

The rest of the family went to a hotel but she stayed behind, sleeping in her car.

"I just want my nephew," she said through tears.

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