Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Public safety

Two homes next to fatal Seffner sinkhole site demolished

SEFFNER — A mess of concrete blocks, couch cushions, a mattress and family mementos littered the ground as demolition began Wednesday on two more homes in the Seffner neighborhood where a sinkhole swallowed a man alive in February.

Demolition of the homes at 238 and 242 Faithway Drive, which were condemned on April 1, will continue through Friday, Hillsborough County spokesman Willie Puz said. The homes sit on either side of 240 Faithway Drive, where a sinkhole opened on the night of Feb. 28, killing Jeffrey Bush.

Bush, 37, was asleep in a bedroom when the house began collapsing. Authorities were unable to recover his body.

"Buddy" Leland Wicker, who was also living in that house with Bush, was on hand Wednesday morning as crews prepared to tear down the neighboring homes. He wanted to be there to offer emotional support.

"It's the neighborly thing to do," Wicker said.

While there, he and his daughter picked up the mailbox from his destroyed home. He said they might set it up at the North Carolina home of his father, who owns 240 Faithway.

Puz said residents of the home at 242 Faithway had worked with their insurance company and were allowed to return to their home briefly to collect some personal items.

Puz said he didn't think that the residents of 238 Faithway had returned since the 30-minute window allowed back in February.

Demolition crews are using two major pieces of equipment to raze the homes, Puz said.

"It's still unstable ground," Puz said, "so we need to do the two-step process and use the long-arm machine to pull it to the street and the smaller unit to put it in the Dumpster."

Decisions are still being made, Puz said, about who will own the empty land after the homes are demolished. "What's going to ultimately happen to the three properties, that's the broader discussion," he said. "We're looking at what ownership are they going to be in and what the property can be used for."

Bush's family members have said they would like a memorial at the site, but plans for that are still up in the air.

The home at 238 Faithway Drive is owned by Jeffrey Allen. It and 242 Faithway Drive, owned by Lisa Jaudon, were officially condemned after engineering consultants determined that repairing them would cost more than 50 percent of their value.

Allen said he wasn't on scene during the demolition. He and his family have moved on from the tragedy, he said.

"I didn't really see any sense of going out there," he said. "I've got to continue working. I'm not going to take a day off at work just to stand around and watch my home be destroyed."

Allen and his family had been staying at an extended stay hotel but moved into a rental home in Plant City about a week ago. His insurance company paid the policy limits.

The property at 238 Faithway Drive continues under his name, but Allen said it will be transferred over to the county.

"Things change, and as time goes on, you progress," he said.

Times staff writer Laura C. Morel contributed to this report.

   
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