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Florida Man Swallowed by Sinkhole Under Bedroom, Officials say it’s Unstable

By CHRIS O’MEARA and TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press

SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) — Officials say a sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man is seriously unstable and they think it will grow.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill says no one can go into the house right now because they are afraid of losing more lives. Engineers say the soil around the house is very soft and there is a potential for another collapse.

Jeff Bush was presumed dead Friday after the earth opened up beneath his bedroom. Five other people were at the home when the bedroom floor collapsed late Thursday night, but no one else was injured.

AP STORY FROM EARLIER:

A huge sinkhole about 30 feet across opened up under a man’s bedroom and swallowed him, taking all of the furniture too.

Jeff Bush, 37, was feared dead after the floor gave way Thursday night. As he screamed for help, his brother Jeremy Bush jumped into the hole to try to help, but couldn’t see him and had to be rescued himself. With the earth still crumbling, a sheriff’s deputy reached out his hand and pulled Jeremy Bush, 36, to safety.

“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 Bush said through tears Friday as he stood in a neighbor’s yard. “But I just couldn’t do nothing.”

The only thing sticking out of the hole was a small corner of a bed’s box spring. Cables from a television led down into the hole, but the TV set, along with a dresser, was nowhere to be seen.

Officials lowered equipment into the sinkhole but didn’t see any sign of life.

Jeremy Bush said it took him only seconds to get to his brother’s room about 11 p.m. Thursday. He had just knocked on his brother’s bedroom door, telling him they weren’t working Friday. The brothers were employed by the Transportation Department and picked up trash along interstates and roads.

“I went in my bedroom, heard a loud crash, ran in that direction,” he said. “I was getting ready to run into the room and I almost fell into the hole. I jumped into the hole and started digging for me. I started screaming for him.”

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 state is especially prone to sinkholes because underneath the ground is limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, sometimes forming a hole in the earth.

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.

There were six people at the home when it collapsed, including Jeremy Bush’s wife and his 2-year-old daughter.

“It was something you would see in a movie. You wouldn’t, in your wildest dreams, you wouldn’t think anything like that could happen, especially here,” he said.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Douglas Duvall rescued Jeremy Bush.

“I reached down and was able to actually able to get him by his hand and pull him out of the hole. The hole was collapsing. At that time, we left the house,” Duvall said.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Larry McKinnon said authorities asked sinkhole and engineering experts to help with the recovery effort, and they were using equipment to see if the ground can support the weight of heavy machinery that was needed.

“We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn’t see anything compatible with life,” Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said. “The entire house is on the sinkhole.”

Neighbors on both sides of the home have been evacuated.

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Follow Lush at www.twitter.com/tamaralush

Associated Press

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