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Florida man presumed dead after sinkhole swallows his bedroom

March 01, 2013|By Michael Muskal

A Florida man who was in his bedroom late Thursday night is presumed dead, swallowed by a sinkhole that opened beneath his Tampa-area home, officials said.

The man, identified as Jeff Bush, 36, was in his bedroom when the sinkhole opened up. Bush screamed for help, but by the time his relatives could come to his aid, he had fallen through the abyss, Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Rogers told reporters at a televised news conference Friday morning.

The sinkhole is 20 to 30 feet across and up to 30 feet deep.

PHOTOS: Man swallowed by sinkhole

Would-be rescuers rushed to the one-story, 1970s home in Brandon Fla., a suburb of Tampa, but they were forced to leave the structure as the floor continued to crumble, Rogers said. The search continued with sophisticated electronic monitoring devices.

“There is no sign of life,” the chief said.

Bush’s brother, Jeremy, and four other people in the house, including a 2-year-old child, escaped.

It was around 11 p.m. when Jeremy Bush said he heard sounds from his brother’s bedroom.

“I heard a loud crash, like a car coming through the house,” Jeremy Bush told WFTS-TV. “I heard my brother screaming and I ran back there and tried going inside his room, but my old lady turned the light on and all I seen was this big hole, a real big hole, and all I saw was his mattress.”

“I wouldn’t say sinkholes are common in that area, but it isn’t unusual either,” Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico told the Los Angeles Times by telephone. “What makes this one unique is that it was completely under the bedroom,” she said.

The death is believed to be the first attributed to a sinkhole in Hillsborough County, she said.

Damico explained that much of the area lies on bedrock that can be eaten away by ground water. As the water table rises and falls, it creates empty pockets underground. The expanding pockets undermine the earth until the surface soil can no longer be supported and it falls in on itself, creating a sinkhole.

The situation at the site on Friday remains precarious, Rogers said. He said experts worry that the hole is still spreading and the entire house could collapse at any time.

Nearby homes have been evacuated as a precaution.

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