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After seeing Tampa sinkhole swallow car, benefactor gets family another one

A nearly 30-foot-deep sinkhole formed outside the Burnham family’s home in Bordeaux Village Condominiums Thursday.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

A nearly 30-foot-deep sinkhole formed outside the Burnham family’s home in Bordeaux Village Condominiums Thursday.

TAMPA — Sean Burnham feels like he hit rock bottom, and awoke Sunday to find the family car had, too.

The 1995 Toyota Camry slid to the bottom of a nearly 30-foot-deep sinkhole outside his home.

The gaping hole forced 11 families, including his, to evacuate a building at the Bordeaux Village Condominiums near the University of South Florida.

He's unemployed. His wife, Sandy, is a convenience store clerk. They have two kids. He used the Camry during the day to look for employment. She used it at night to get to work.

Farther south from their Parrish home, Bill and Kathy Palmer watched the story unfold on television. They wanted to do something to help. So they did.

"Our hearts went out to them," Bill Palmer said. "It's the first time I've seen, literally, a car swallowed up like that."

After calling the American Red Cross, Palmer got in touch with the Burnhams. He told them he would get them another car.

After visiting the Brandon Hyundai Mitsubishi dealership, the Burnham family was sitting in a 2001 Volvo V70.

"They gave us a beautiful car that we are still in shock of owning," Sean Burnham said. "As soon as we are in a position we can pay it forward, we definitely will. We know what it is like to be down, broke and broken."

His family is staying at a hotel while crews fill in the sinkhole — a process that started Thursday and could take some time.

Palmer is founder of Bank Card Processing, a company that processes credit card activity for retail stores and restaurants.

"We feel that we have the responsibility because we have been blessed with a lot," Palmer said. "That's just our philosophy and what we do."

Crews worked through Thursday filling in the hole with 160 cubic yards of sand and 20 tons of stone. The Burnhams' old car, which disappeared down the hole, also will serve as filler.

"It might be something that helps stabilize the sinkhole," said Marielle Westerman, the condo association's attorney.

The fill-in, which could take several days to finish, is just the beginning of the restoration process, she said.

Westerman said part of the foundation of an outside staircase has eroded. There also could be more damage inside the condo closest to the sinkhole.

The Red Cross was assisting six families with housing. Some of the others are living with relatives out of state as they wait for repairs, said spokeswoman Janet McGuire.

Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226 3435 or jleone@sptimes. Katie Sanders can be reached at (727) 893-8804 or ksanders@sptimes.com.

After seeing Tampa sinkhole swallow car, benefactor gets family another one 07/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 12:05am]
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