Workers fill in reopened sinkhole that swallowed Seffner man in 2013

Workers pour a denser water-gravel mix to reduce the chance of it opening a third time.
Published August 20 2015
Updated August 21 2015

SEFFNER — Workers on Thursday morning filled in the large sinkhole on Faithway Drive that reopened this week, more than two years after it swallowed and killed a man while he was sleeping in his home.

The same engineering firm that assessed the hole in 2013 and recommended filling it with gravel made a similar recommendation this week, Hillsborough code enforcement director Ron Spiller said Thursday.

"The first and most important thing for everyone in the neighborhood to know is that they're safe and this is being dealt with right away," he said.

Engineers also determined it was likely that the onslaught of heavy, relentless rains in the past month that caused hydraulic stress on the patched sinkhole.

To stabilize the hole, Spiller said workers would pour in 20,000 gallons of water at the same time they pour the 120 tons of gravel. The combination should make the material more compact and less likely to cave in again.

"What they've told us is that this may occur again," Spiller said. "But if it does, it will be in the exact same spot."

That was the thinking behind the first repair in 2013. The affected home at 240 Faithway Drive and two others next door were demolished, and a black metal fence was erected around all three properties. Then, another fence was built around the filled-in sinkhole. In the event of it reopening, like it did Wednesday, the repair was designed to contain the damage. As expected, Spiller said, the hole did not expand beyond its original 17-foot diameter.

Jeffrey Bush was sleeping the night of Feb. 28, 2013, when the ground gave way beneath his bedroom. Bush, 36, screamed for help as his brother Jeremy burst in, only to watch helplessly as Jeffrey's mattress disappeared into the hole.

Jeffrey Bush's body was never recovered because the hole made recovery efforts too dangerous.

Jeremy Bush and his wife, Rachel Wicker, gathered again Wednesday behind yellow police tape when they learned on Facebook that the hole had reopened. Since that day in 2013, they've visited the site every day. They treat the space as Bush's grave.

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.

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