Advertisement
  1. News

Authorities end search for sinkhole victim, plan to demolish house

A heavy duty excavator sits in front of the home at 240 Faithway Drive in Seffner. The home had a large sinkhole open in the bedroom, swallowing 36-year-old Jeffrey Bush. Bush’s body will not be recovered; demolition of the home will begin today.
Published Sep. 5, 2013

SEFFNER — The sinkhole that took Jeffrey Bush's life will be his final resting place.

Officials ceased recovery efforts Saturday evening after determining the soil surrounding the house over the sinkhole was too unstable to support attempts to find his body.

The four-bedroom home will be demolished today, with Bush still underneath. The decision came just hours after two neighboring homes were deemed compromised by the sinkhole.

"We can no longer sustain the rescue effort. At this point, we have to move beyond the rescue to a demolition phase and securing the site," Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said.

Merrill said the sinkhole is a chasm extending down 50 to 60 feet. Bush, 37, tumbled into the ground Thursday night after the sinkhole opened beneath his bedroom. A full day of work Saturday produced no new details on his whereabouts.

Initially, a microphone and small camera were lowered into the hole, but yielded no results. No one has set foot on the property since the sinkhole opened.

The possibility of a cave-in and the entire home collapsing makes any effort to go inside too dangerous, said Ross McGillivray, of Ardaman & Association, a geotechnical engineering firm working at the site.

Buddy Wicker owns the house. Wicker's granddaughter lived there, along with five others. They escaped the collapse unharmed.

Wicker said he was disappointed to hear that Bush's body would not be recovered, but understood why.

"I don't want to see any other person get hurt," he said. "There has been enough hurt."

The unstable ground at 240 Faithway Drive will make demolition tricky. Any work will have to be done from the sidewalk, Merrill said.

During demolition, workers will attempt to save some of the family's belongings by moving sections of the home to the road. Then they will try to fill the hole.

"If we can get the house off of it, there is the potential we can fill the hole with gravel and sand and stabilize it," McGillivray said.

Two homes on either side of the sinkhole were deemed unsafe earlier Saturday.

Testing at both homes determined they were potentially unstable, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Ronnie Rivera said. The residents of those houses, accompanied by firefighters, were given 20 to 30 minutes to gather their belongings.

"The soil conditions are very similar to the soil conditions of the sinkhole area," McGillivray said.

Though the houses have not yet been condemned, the families may never be able to return.

Meanwhile, residents at other nearby homes were preparing for the worst. Chris Holloway, 21, lives at 244 Faithway — two houses down from where the sinkhole opened.

"We already have all our stuff packed," he said. "We're ready to go."

Even if his house is deemed stable, the family doesn't want to take any chances.

"My grandfather has already said that after all this is over, he's selling the house."

Earlier Saturday, Jeremy Bush — who tried to rescue his brother when the earth opened — put flowers and a stuffed lamb at a makeshift memorial near the house and wept. Friends and family dropped off balloons and flowers.

Not being able to recover his brother's body was his worst fear.

"They say it keeps getting bigger and I don't think they're going to find him," he said. "I think he'll be in that hole forever. ... I lost my brother. I lost everything."

Workers wearing safety harnesses used specialized equipment Saturday morning to bore into the ground to determine the extent of the sinkhole.

Engineers began doing tests at 7 a.m. By 10 a.m., officials moved media crews farther away so experts could perform tests on the home across the street. They found no evidence there of unstable soil.

By Saturday evening, crews had determined the sinkhole remained about 20 to 30 feet wide but continued to grow.

There does not seem to be any immediate danger to other structures in the neighborhood.

"We feel the conditions are isolated and there is no indication from the probes that it is anywhere else," McGillivray said.

Experts are still working to determine the exact cause of the problem.

"My opinion is that this sinkhole has been forming for a while," McGillivray said. "It may have been caused by erosion of soil down into the limestone."

Larry Madrid, of Madrid Engineering, said figuring out the extent and cause of the sinkhole is difficult because of its location directly underneath the house.

Wicker said he never noticed any signs of a possible collapse. Usually, McGillivray said, cracks will form in the walls if there is sinkhole activity. But at this home, the problem may have been hidden below the concrete slab, he said.

The construction of the home, as well as a thinner than usual slab, may have played a role in the collapse, he said.

County officials have gone so far as to inspect storm drains as a potential cause but that was inconclusive, county spokesman Willie Puz said.

According to the Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office, 678 properties in the county are currently experiencing sinkhole activity. Another 558 properties have been repaired from sinkhole damage in the past. All of those properties are given a reduction on assessed value.

Those interested in donating to the families affected by the sinkhole can go to firefighter-relief.com, according to Fire Rescue officials.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is hoping to secure a $21.8 million federal grant to help pay for a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches. St. Petersburg City  Council approved an interlocal agreement Thursday supporting the project. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
    Pinellas transit officials hope the project will get a federal grant in 2020. However, St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena still oppose it.
  2. Marissa Mowry, 28, sits in a Hillsborough County courtroom court before her sentencing hearing Thursday. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a boy when he was 11-years-old. She was his former nanny, and became pregnant with his child. Photo courtesy of WTVT-Fox 13
    Marissa Mowry was 22 when she first assaulted an 11-year-old boy. Now he’s a teenager raising a son, and she was classified as a sexual predator.
  3. The tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that’s projected to strengthen as it approaches Florida could put a crimp ― or much worse ― in Tampa Bay’s weekend plans. National Hurricane Center
    The National Weather Service warns that the Gulf of Mexico disturbance could strengthen and bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the bay area.
  4. Pat Frank, at a 2016 candidate debate with then-challenger Kevin Beckner. She won. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
    From school board to state lawmaker to clerk of courts, she just keeps on going, Sue Carlton writes.
  5. Researchers from the University of Central Florida and International innovation company, Imec have developed a camera that uses specific wavelength of light to easily find pythons in habitat where they are typically well camouflaged. 
 Imec
    University of Central Florida researchers worked with Imec to develop the cameras.
  6. Pasco County Sheriff's deputies lead three teenagers from a Wesley Chapel Publix store after responding to reports that the boys had been showing off handguns there in a Snapchat video. PASCO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The three Pinellas boys were apprehended while they were still walking the aisles of the Wesley Chapel store.
  7. The 59-year-old pastor was arrested Oct. 2 after a young woman told investigators he began abusing her in 2014 when she was 14 and he was senior minister at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP
    Rev. Bryan Fulwider was released Wednesday night after posting a $700,000 bond.
  8. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The shuttered store has been reinvented and debuted to the community.
  9. Yogi Goswami
    The Molekule Air Mini is a scaled-down version of its original purifier.
  10. In this image taken from video provided by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, border patrol agents escort a woman to a patrol car on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Aventura Hospital in Aventura, Fla. The woman had been detained by border patrol agents when she fell ill. The agent took her to the hospital emergency room for treatment. The presence of immigration authorities is becoming increasingly common at health care facilities around the country, and hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration. (Florida Immigrant Coalition via AP) AP
    Hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement