Advertisement
  1. News

Sinkhole reopens two years after it swallowed Seffner man sleeping in his bed

Jeremy Bush, 38, and his wife, Rachel Wicker, 30, from Seffner talk on their phones near the sinkhole on Wednesday. In March 2013, the sinkhole opened and swallowed Jeffrey Bush, Jeremy's brother. [SCOTTY SCHENCK | Times]
Jeremy Bush, 38, and his wife, Rachel Wicker, 30, from Seffner talk on their phones near the sinkhole on Wednesday. In March 2013, the sinkhole opened and swallowed Jeffrey Bush, Jeremy's brother. [SCOTTY SCHENCK | Times]
Published Aug. 20, 2015

SEFFNER

Jeremy Bush knew the cavernous, deadly hole on Faithway Drive would crack back open eventually.

It swallowed his brother alive two years ago and prompted Hillsborough County to level the Bush home plus two others, just in case.

Bush, 38, has visited the site each day since, watched county workers to fill in the hole, pile it high with white rock and close it off with a fence.

His brother's body was never recovered. Family members treat the site as Jeffrey Bush's grave.

On Wednesday morning, that grave opened wide once again.

"It's hard to believe," Jeremy Bush said. "It brings back memories. I think about it every day. There ain't a day that goes by that I don't think about it."

Around 9 a.m., a woman walking her dog near the site of the infamous sinkhole called 911 after she heard a loud noise. Hillsborough sheriff's deputies responded and found the newly gaping hole, 17 feet wide and 20 feet deep, county code enforcement director Ron Spiller said.

"It wasn't expected, but it's not uncommon," Spiller said.

Sinkholes form when acidic water, such as rain, dissolves the rock bed below the earth's surface. Voids are created — and have been for eons — and when the ground above collapses into them, a sinkhole forms.

The onslaught of downpours in the last month was a major contributor to the Faithway Drive hole reopening, Spiller said. Heavy rain after a drought makes ideal conditions for sinkhole activity.

The site is just under an acre and double-fenced. The same engineering firm that repaired the hole the first time said there was no threat to surrounding homes or residents.

"They're safe," Spiller said. "What happened today is exactly what was designed to happen."

Engineers assessed the hole Wednesday afternoon and will have a plan of action to the county soon, Spiller said. Officials hope to begin repairs soon.

Neighbor Ricky Arey, 52, lives across the street. He remembers how devastated the community was after Jeffrey Bush's death.

"It's still a thing," he said. "There is still traffic that stops, that comes by."

He sees Jeremy Bush return every day.

For months after the first hole opened, Arey said his wife could not sleep. On Wednesday, her fear only increased.

"We're a little concerned being 100 feet away," Arey said. "It's like swiss cheese."

Other neighbors said they were also concerned, but wouldn't let "what-ifs" paralyze them. This is Florida, they said. Sinkholes happen.

"We kind of thought it was behind us," Arey added, "because the gravel there hadn't settled."

But Jeremy Bush and his wife, Rachel Wicker, said that on their most recent trips to the site it appeared the white rocks piled on top had shifted.

The couple were inside the blue house at 240 Faithway Drive on Feb. 28, 2013, when the floor opened up beneath Jeffrey Bush's bed.

"Help me! Help me!" Jeremy Bush heard his brother yelling. He threw open the bedroom door, flipped on the lights and saw only the tip of Jeffrey's mattress sinking into the earth.

Jeremy dug furiously at the churning hole before rescue workers pulled him away.

Days later, after another collapse buried a piece of equipment, authorities deemed the property too unsafe to continue work. The house was demolished, the hole filled with gravel. Two neighboring houses were later demolished.

Jeremy Bush and his wife lived in a hotel for six months, then moved to temporary housing. One day, several houses down, another sinkhole appeared.

"We felt like it was following us," Wicker said.

With the donations and financial aid they received after the tragedy, Wicker and Bush bought a new home in the same neighborhood where the little blue house once stood.

They walk by daily to pay their respects. A plaque honoring Jeffrey Bush sits outside the fence. His name is engraved on a headstone kept at his brother's home. A cemetery plot wasn't necessary.

Even after two years, that's still the hardest part.

"I didn't get to say bye," Jeremy Bush said.

Information from WTSP 10News was used in this report. Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. This undated photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, from St. Petersburg, Fla. One of the victims of the shooting Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., has been identified as Haitham, 19, who joined the Navy after graduating from high school last year, according to the Tampa Bay Times. (U.S. Navy via AP) [U.S. NAVY PHOTO   |  AP]
    Ferg’s will sponsor the benefit concert for the family of Mohammad “Mo” Haitham
  2. Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel said a Tampa economic development group's recent decision to put "Tampa Bay" into its name "does great harm to the progress we have made on regional collaboration."
    But in Tampa, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit, government-supported economic development group is giving no sign of backing off the new name.
  3. This holiday season could be a record for travel. According to AAA, the Auto Club Group. Pictured is traffic on the Bayside Bridge in Clearwater in October. [Times file photo] [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    According to AAA, the Auto Club Group, more Americans are traveling this year than previous years.
  4. Dan Short, second from right, owner of Dan-Lo Jewelers,  speaks with Hernando County Sheriff's detective Anthony Belmonte, far right, during a news conference Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 in Brooksville. The Sheriff's Office announced that a trio of jewelry store burglars were arrested after robbing between $16 million and $18 million from places around Florida. [ZACK SAMPSON  |  Times]
    The trio targeted jewelry stores, making off with as much as $18 million, authorities say. They were finally arrested in Chicago.
  5. Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia, who played 19 seasons before injuries ended his career this fall, greets children attending the Yankees holiday concert at the Straz Center in Tampa on Thursday. Sabathia was joined by his wife Amber, right. [New York Yankees]
    Long-time host and retired news anchor John Wilson passed the torch this year to a new emcee, his son Mark Wilson.
  6. This Feb. 19 photo shows a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland. [AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File]
    The grand jury said districts are creating “unnecessary chaos” and have become “experts at data manipulation.”
  7. Council member Ed Montanari, left, was elected St. Petersburg City Council chair for 2020. Council member Gina Driscoll was voted vice-chair. [Times (2019)]
    The chair guides the council through meetings and generally speak last on issues.
  8. NewSouth Window Solutions has a factory and its headquarters near Tampa, seven factory showrooms around Florida and in Charleston, S.C., and an eighth scheduled to open early next year in the Pensacola-Mobile, Ala. market. [LensLife Productions]
    The buyer is PGT Innovations and wants to expand. NewSouth has a factory in Tampa and eight showrooms, with a ninth on the way.
  9. Methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia sit along side the stolen DeWalt power tool and phony store receipt as evidence is collected on the hood of the car after as two men are arrested at the Home Depot at 10151 Bloomingdale Ave, in Riverview, on Tuesday, June 26, 2019. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A Times report shows Hillsborough deputies struggle to stomp out tool theft networks tied to drugs.
  10. St. Petersburg officials are looking for residents to volunteer on city boards and committees.
    Residents interested in volunteering on boards should email mayor@stpete.org.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement